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The history of writing traces the development of expressing language by letters or other markings and also the studies and descriptions of these developments. In the history of how
writing systems A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, grou ...
have evolved in different human
civilizations A civilization (or civilisation) is any complex society that is characterized by urban development, social stratification Social stratification refers to a society's categorization Categorization is the human ability and activity of r ...
, more complete writing systems were preceded by ''
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
'', systems of
ideographic An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only b ...
or early
mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ that serves as the c ...

mnemonic
symbols (symbols or letters that make remembering them easier). ''True writing'', in which the content of a
linguistic utterance In spoken language A spoken language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing sy ...
is encoded so that another reader can reconstruct, with a fair degree of accuracy, the exact utterance written down, is a later development. It is distinguished from proto-writing, which typically avoids encoding grammatical words and
affixes In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
, making it more difficult or even impossible to reconstruct the exact meaning intended by the writer unless a great deal of context is already known in advance. One of the earliest known forms of written expression is
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
.


Inventions of writing

Writing was long thought to have been invented in a single civilization, a theory named "monogenesis". Scholars believed that all writing originated in ancient
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...

Sumer
(in
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
) and spread over the world from there via a process of
cultural diffusion In cultural anthropology Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, and society, societies, in both the present and pas ...
. According to this theory, the concept of representing language by written marks, though not necessarily the specifics of how such a system worked, was passed on by traders or merchants traveling between geographical regions. However, the discovery of the scripts of ancient
Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human geography), and the interaction of humanity and th ...
, far away from Middle Eastern sources, proved that writing had been invented more than once. Scholars now recognize that writing may have independently developed in at least four ancient civilizations: Mesopotamia (between 3400 and 3100 BCE),
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identif ...

Egypt
(around 3250 BCE), China (1200 BCE), and lowland areas of Southern Mexico and Guatemala (by 500 BCE). Regarding ancient Egypt, several scholars have argued that "the earliest solid evidence of Egyptian writing differs in structure and style from the Mesopotamian and must therefore have developed independently. The possibility of 'stimulus diffusion' from Mesopotamia remains, but the influence cannot have gone beyond the transmission of an idea." Regarding China, it is believed that ancient Chinese characters are an independent invention because there is no evidence of contact between ancient China and the literate civilizations of the Near East, and because of the distinct differences between the Mesopotamian and Chinese approaches to
logography In a written language, a logogram or logograph is a written character that represents a word or morpheme. Chinese characters (pronounced ''hanzi'' in Mandarin, ''kanji'' in Japanese, ''hanja'' in Korean and ''Hán tự'' in Vietnamese) are gener ...
and phonetic representation. Debate surrounds the
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
of the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
Indus Valley civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken, a domesticated jungle fowl. The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), also known as the Indus Civilisation, was a Bronze ...

Indus Valley civilization
, the
Rongorongo Rongorongo (Rapa Nui Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile Chile (, ; ), officially the Republic of Chile (), is a country in western South America. It occupies a long, na ...
script of
Easter Island Easter Island ( rap, Rapa Nui; es, Isla de Pascua) is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. The island is most famous for its nearly ...

Easter Island
, and the
Vinča symbols The Vinča symbols, sometimes known as the Danube script, Vinča signs, Vinča script, Vinča–Turdaș script, Old European script, etc., are a set of untranslated symbols found on Neolithic Europe, Neolithic era (6th to 5th millennium BC) artifa ...
dated around 5,500 BCE. All are undeciphered, and so it is unknown if they represent authentic writing,
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
, or something else. The archaic (pre-
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...
) writing and
Egyptian hieroglyphs Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, used for writing the Egyptian language. Hieroglyphs combined logographic, syllabary, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.The ...
are generally considered the earliest true writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400–3100 BCE, with earliest coherent texts from about 2600 BCE. The
Proto-Elamite script The Proto-Elamite period, also known as Susa III, is the time from ca. 3100 BC to 2700 BC in the area of Elam Elam (; Linear Elamite: ''hatamti''; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that ...
is also dated to the same approximate period.


Writing systems

Symbolic communication systems are distinguished from
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, p ...
s. With writing systems, one must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to comprehend the text. In contrast, symbolic systems, such as
information sign An informative sign is a very legibly printed and very ...

information sign
s,
painting Painting is the practice of applying paint Paint is any pigmented liquid, liquefiable, or solid mastic composition that, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, converts to a solid film. It is most commonly used to protect, ...

painting
,
map A map is a symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy), object, or wikt:relationship, relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or s ...

map
s, and
mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It has no generally ...
, 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 humanity (see
Origin of language The origin of language (spoken and signed, as well as language-related technological systems such as writing), its relationship with human evolution, and its consequences have been subjects of study for centuries. Scholars wishing to study the ...
). However the development of writing systems, and their partial supplantation of traditional
oral The word oral may refer to: Relating to the mouth * Relating to the mouth, the first portion of the alimentary canal that primarily receives food and liquid **Oral administration of medicines ** Oral examination (also known as an oral exam or oral ...
systems of communication, have 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 that no longer exist in the spoken language. There are considered to be three writing criteria for all writing systems. Firstly, writing must be complete: it must have a purpose or some sort of meaning to it, and a point must be made or communicated in the text. Secondly, all writing systems must have some sort of symbols which can be made on some sort of surface, whether physical or digital. Lastly, the symbols used in the writing system must mimic spoken word/speech, in order for communication to be possible. The greatest benefit of writing is that it provides the tool by which society can record information consistently and in greater detail, something that could not be achieved as well previously by spoken word. Writing allows societies to transmit information and to share and preserve knowledge.


Recorded history

The origins of writing appear during the start of the pottery-phase of the Neolithic, when clay tokens were used to record specific amounts of livestock or commodities. These tokens were initially impressed on the surface of round clay envelopes and then stored in them. The tokens were then progressively replaced by flat tablets, on which signs were recorded with a stylus. Actual writing is first recorded in
Uruk Uruk, also known as Warka, was an ancient city of Sumer (and later of Babylonia) situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates River on the dried-up ancient channel of the Euphrates east of modern Samawah, Muthanna Governorate, Al-Muthannā, ...
, at the end of the 4th millennium BC, and soon after in various parts of the Near-East."Beginning in the pottery-phase of the Neolithic, clay tokens are widely attested as a system of counting and identifying specific amounts of specified livestock or commodities. The tokens, enclosed in clay envelopes after being impressed on their rounded surface, were gradually replaced by impressions on flat or plano-convex tablets, and these in turn by more or less conventionalized pictures of the tokens incised on the clay with a reed stylus. That final step completed the transition to full writing, and with it the consequent ability to record contemporary events for posterity" An ancient
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
n poem gives the first known story of the invention of writing: Scholars make a reasonable distinction between
prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by hominins 3.3 million years ago and the invention of writing systems. The use of symbols, marks, and images appears very ...
and
history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 millio ...

history
of early writingShotwell, James Thomson. An Introduction to the History of History. Records of civilization, sources and studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1922. 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
grapheme In linguistics, a grapheme is the smallest functional unit of a writing system. The word ''grapheme'', coined in analogy with ''phoneme'', is derived , and the suffix ''-eme'' by analogy with ''phoneme'' and other names of emic units. The study ...

grapheme
s, which may, in turn, be composed of
glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arr ...
s. The emergence of writing in a given area is usually followed by several centuries of fragmentary inscriptions. Historians mark the "historicity" of a culture by the presence of coherent texts in the culture's writing system(s).


Developmental stages

cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
s,
Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian culture, a complex and stable culture with thousands of years of r ...
hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...
s and
Chinese characters Chinese characters, also called ''hanzi'' (), are logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it ...
. A conventional "proto-writing to true writing" system follows a general series of developmental stages: *''Picture writing system'': glyphs (simplified pictures) directly represent objects and concepts. In connection with this, the following substages may be distinguished: ** Mnemonic: glyphs primarily as a reminder. ** Pictographic: glyphs directly represent an object or a concept such as (A) chronological, (B) notices, (C) communications, (D) totems, titles, and names, (E) religious, (F) customs, (G) historical, and (H) biographical. ** Ideographic: graphemes are abstract symbols that directly represent an idea or concept. *''Transitional system'': graphemes refer not only to the object or idea that it represents but to its name as well. *''Phonetic system'': graphemes refer to sounds or spoken symbols, and the form of the grapheme is not related to its meanings. This resolves itself into the following substages: ** Verbal: grapheme (
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
) represents a whole word. ** Syllabic: grapheme represents a syllable. ** Alphabetic: grapheme represents an elementary sound. The best known picture writing system of
ideographic An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only b ...

ideographic
or early
mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ that serves as the c ...

mnemonic
symbols are: *
Jiahu symbols 100px, Example of Jiahu symbols. The Jiahu symbols () consist of 16 distinct markings on prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the desc ...
, carved on
tortoise Tortoises () are reptiles Reptiles are tetrapod Tetrapods (; from Greek 'four' and 'foot') are four-limbed animals constituting the superclass Tetrapoda . It includes extant and extinct amphibians, reptiles (including dinosaurs and t ...

tortoise
shells Shell may refer to: Architecture and design * Shell (structure), a thin structure **Concrete shell, a thin shell of concrete, usually with no interior columns or exterior buttresses **Thin-shell structure, **Oil company Science Biology * Seashell ...
in
Jiahu Jiahu () was the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River. It is located between the floodplains of the Ni River (China), Ni River to the north, and the Sha River to the south, north of ...

Jiahu
, c. 6600 BC *
Vinča signs Vinča ( sr-cyr, Винча, ) is a List of Belgrade neighborhoods, suburban settlement of Belgrade, Serbia. It is part of the municipality of Grocka. Vinča-Belo Brdo, an important archaeological site that gives its name to the Neolithic Vinča cu ...
(
Tărtăria tablets The Tărtăria tablets () are three clay tablet, tablets, reportedly discovered in 1961 at a Neolithic site in the village of Tărtăria (about from Alba Iulia), in Romania. The dating of the tablets is difficult as they cannot be carbon-dated a ...
), c. 5300 BCHaarmann, Harald: "Geschichte der Schrift", C.H. Beck, 2002, , p. 20 * Early
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
, c. 3100 BC In the Old World, true writing systems developed from
neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
writing in the
Early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical composition * Period, ...
(
4th millennium BC The 4th millennium BC spanned the years 4000 through 3001 BC. Some of the major changes in human culture during this time included the beginning of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized b ...
).


Literature and writing

The
history of literature The history of literature is the historical development of writings in prose Prose is a form of written (or spoken) language that usually exhibits a natural speech, natural flow of speech and Syntax, grammatical structure—an exception is ...
begins with the history of writing, but literature and writing, though obviously connected, are not synonymous. The very first writings from ancient
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...

Sumer
by any reasonable definition do not constitute literature. The same is true of some of the early
Egyptian hieroglyphics Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning ...

Egyptian hieroglyphics
and the thousands of ancient Chinese government records. Scholars have disagreed concerning when written record-keeping became more like
literature Literature broadly is any collection of Writing, written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama, and poetry. In recent centuries, the definition has expand ...

literature
, but the oldest surviving literary texts date from a full millennium after the invention of writing. The earliest literary authors known by name are
Ptahhotep Ptahhotep ( egy, ptḥ ḥtp ''piˈtaħħaːtip'' "Peace of Ptah Ptah ( egy, ptḥ, reconstructed ; grc, Φθά; cop, ⲡⲧⲁϩ) is an ancient Egyptian deity, the god of craftsmen and architects. In the triad of Memphis, he is the ...
(who wrote in
Egyptian Egyptian describes something of, from, or related to Egypt. Egyptian or Egyptians may refer to: Nations and ethnic groups * Egyptians, a national group in North Africa ** Egyptian culture, a complex and stable culture with thousands of years of r ...
) and
Enheduanna Enheduanna ( Sumerian: , also transliterated as ''Enheduana'', ''En-hedu-ana'', or variants; fl. 23rd century BC) "ca. 2285–2250 B.C.E." is the earliest known poet whose name has been recorded. She was the High Priestess of the goddess Inanna ...

Enheduanna
(who wrote in ), dating to around the 24th and 23rd centuries BC, respectively.


Locations and timeframes


Proto-writing

The first
writing systems A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or Organization, grou ...
of the
Early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in musical composition * Period, ...
were not a sudden invention. Rather, they were a development based on earlier traditions of
symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meanin ...

symbol
systems that cannot be classified as proper writing, but have many of the characteristics of writing. These systems may be described as "proto-writing." They used
ideographic An ideogram or ideograph (from Ancient Greek, Greek "idea" and "to write") is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept, independent of any particular language, and specific words or phrases. Some ideograms are comprehensible only b ...

ideographic
or early
mnemonic A mnemonic () device, or memory device, is any learning technique that aids information retention or retrieval (remembering) in the human memory Memory is the faculty of the brain A brain is an organ (biology), organ that serves as the c ...

mnemonic
symbols to convey information, but it probably directly contained no
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and the philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premedit ...
. These systems emerged in the early
Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
period, as early as the 7th millennium BC, and include: * The
Jiahu symbols 100px, Example of Jiahu symbols. The Jiahu symbols () consist of 16 distinct markings on prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the desc ...
found carved in
tortoise Tortoises () are reptiles Reptiles are tetrapod Tetrapods (; from Greek 'four' and 'foot') are four-limbed animals constituting the superclass Tetrapoda . It includes extant and extinct amphibians, reptiles (including dinosaurs and t ...

tortoise
shells in 24 Neolithic graves excavated at
Jiahu Jiahu () was the site of a Neolithic settlement based in the central plain of ancient China, near the Yellow River. It is located between the floodplains of the Ni River (China), Ni River to the north, and the Sha River to the south, north of ...

Jiahu
,
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China Provincial-level administrative divisions () or first-level administrative divisions (), are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisio ...

Henan
province, northern China, with
radiocarbon date Radiocarbon dating (also referred to as carbon dating or carbon-14 dating) is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material Organic matter, organic material, or natural organic matter refers to the large source of ...
s from the 7th millennium BC. Most archaeologists consider these not directly linked to the earliest true writing. *
Vinča symbols The Vinča symbols, sometimes known as the Danube script, Vinča signs, Vinča script, Vinča–Turdaș script, Old European script, etc., are a set of untranslated symbols found on Neolithic Europe, Neolithic era (6th to 5th millennium BC) artifa ...
, sometimes called the "Danube script" - are a set of symbols found on
Neolithic era The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age, with a wide-ranging set of developments that appear to have arisen independently in several parts of the world. It is first seen about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of ...
(6th to 5th millennia BC) artifacts from the
Vinča culture The Vinča culture, îːntʃaalso known as Turdaș culture or Turdaș–Vinča culture, was a Neolithic archaeological culture in southeastern Europe, in present-day Serbia, and smaller parts of Bulgaria, Kosovo (region), Kosovo, Macedonia ...
of
Central Europe Central Europe is an area of Europe between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, based on a common History, historical, Society, social and cultural identity. The Thirty Years' War between Catholic Church, Catholicism and Protestantism was a signifi ...

Central Europe
and
Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the ...

Southeastern Europe
. * The Dispilio Tablet of the late 6th millennium may also be an example of proto-writing. * The
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
, which from 3500 BCE to 1900 BCE was used for extremely short inscriptions. Even after the Neolithic, several cultures went through an intermediate stage of proto-writing before they used proper writing. The
quipu Quipu (also spelled khipu) are recording devices fashioned from strings historically used by a number of cultures in the region of Andean South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the ...

quipu
of the
Incas The Inca Empire, also known as Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, and at the time known as the Realm of the Four Parts,,  "four parts together" was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military ce ...

Incas
(15th century AD), sometimes called "talking knots," may have been such a system. Another example is the pictographs invented by
Uyaquk Uyaquq (also Uyaquk or Uyakoq; sometimes referred to in English as Helper Neck) (ca. 1860–1924) was a member of the Central Alaskan Yup'ik people, Yupik native American group who became a Elder (Christianity), Helper in the Moravian Church, n ...
before the development of the
Yugtun syllabary The Yugtun or Alaska script is a syllabary invented around the year 1900 by Uyaquq to write the Central Alaskan Yup'ik language. Uyaquq, who was monolingual in Yup'ik but had a son who was literate in English, initially used indigenous pictograms ...
for the Central Alaskan
Yup'ik language Central Alaskan Yupik, or Yupʼik (also rendered Yupik, Central Yupik, or indigenously Yugtun) is one of the languages of the Yupik family, in turn a member of the Eskimo–Aleut language group, spoken in western and southwestern Alaska ...
in about 1900.


Bronze Age writing

Writing emerged in many different cultures in the
Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the Three-age syst ...
. Examples are the
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
writing of the
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from AkkadianAkkadian or Accadian may refer to: * The Akkadian language Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclo ...

Sumer
ians, Egyptian
hieroglyphs A hieroglyph (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million ...

hieroglyphs
,
Cretan hieroglyphs Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph ( Greek for "sacred carvings") was a character of the ancient Egyptian writing system. Logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural ...
, Chinese logographs,
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
, and the Olmec script of Mesoamerica. The
Chinese script Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system The modern Jap ...
likely developed independently of the Middle Eastern scripts around 1600 BC. The pre-Columbian
Mesoamerican writing systems Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the no ...
(including
Olmec The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western ...
and
Maya script Maya script, also known as Maya glyphs, was the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, ...
s) 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 Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta. Semitic may also refer to: Religions * Abrahamic religions ** ...
workers in the Sinai by giving mostly Egyptian
hieratic Hieratic (; grc, ἱερατικά, hieratiká, priestly) is the name given to a cursive Cursive (also known as script, among other names) is any style of penmanship in which some characters are written joined together in a flowing manner, g ...
glyphs Semitic values (see
History of the alphabet The history of alphabetic writing goes back to the consonantal writing system used for Semitic languages in the Levant in the 2nd millennium BCE. Most or nearly all alphabetic scripts used throughout the world today ultimately go back to this Semit ...
and
Proto-Sinaitic alphabet Proto-Sinaitic (also referred to as Sinaitic, Proto-Canaanite when found in Canaan, the North Semitic alphabet, or Early Alphabetic) is considered the earliest trace of alphabetic writing and the common ancestor of both the Ancient South Arabian ...
). The 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 The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet (more specifically, an abjad) known in modern times from the Canaanite and Aramaic inscriptions found across the Mediterranean region. The Phoenician alphabet is also called the Early Linear script (in a S ...

Phoenician alphabet
, or were directly inspired by its design. In Italy, about 500 years passed from the early
Old Italic alphabet The Old Italic scripts are a family of similar ancient writing systems used in the Italy, Italian Peninsula between around 700 and 100 BC, for various languages spoken in that time and place. The most notable member is the Etruscan alphabet ...
to
Plautus Titus Maccius Plautus (; c. 254 – 184 BC), commonly known as Plautus, was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the ...

Plautus
(750 to 250 BC), and in the case of the
Germanic peoples The Germanic peoples were a historical group of people living in Central Europe and Scandinavia. Since the 19th century, they have traditionally been defined by the use of ancient and early medieval Germanic languages and are thus equated at lea ...

Germanic peoples
, the corresponding time span is again similar, from the first
Elder Futhark The Elder Futhark (or Fuþark), also known as the Older Futhark, Old Futhark, or Germanic Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic peoples for Northwest Germanic dialects in the Migration Period. ...
inscriptions to early texts like the ''
Abrogans ''Abrogans'', also ''German Abrogans'' or ''Codex Abrogans'' (St Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 911), is a Middle Latin–Old High German glossary, whose preserved copy in the Abbey Library of St Gall is regarded as the oldest preserved book in the ...
'' (c. AD 200 to 750).


Cuneiform script

The original Sumerian writing system derives from a system of clay tokens used to represent commodities. By the end of the
4th millennium BC The 4th millennium BC spanned the years 4000 through 3001 BC. Some of the major changes in human culture during this time included the beginning of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized b ...
, 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 A pictogram, also called a pictogramme, pictograph, or simply picto, and in computer usage an icon An icon (from the Greek language, Greek 'image, resemblance') is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the E ...
writing by using a sharp stylus to indicate what was being counted. By the 29th century BC, writing, at first only for
logogram In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign lang ...
s, using a wedge-shaped stylus (hence the term
cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is name ...

cuneiform
) developed to include phonetic elements, gradually replacing round-stylus and sharp-stylus writing by around 2700–2500 BC. About 2600 BC, cuneiform began to represent syllables of the
Sumerian language Sumerian ( " native tongue") is the language of ancient Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian '; Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: ...

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 Akkadian ( ''akkadû'', ''ak-ka-du-u2''; logogram: ''URIKI'')John Huehnergard & Christopher Woods, "Akkadian and Eblaite", ''The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages''. Ed. Roger D. Woodard (2004, Cambridge) Pages 218-280 i ...

Akkadian language
, and from there to others, such as
Hurrian The Hurrians (; Cuneiform script, cuneiform: ; transliteration: ''Ḫu-ur-ri''; also called Hari, Khurrites, Hourri, Churri, Hurri or Hurriter) were a people of the Bronze Age Ancient Near East, Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language cal ...
and
Hittite Hittite may refer to: * Hittites, ancient Anatolian people ** Hittite language, the earliest-attested Indo-European language ** Hittite grammar ** Hittite phonology ** Hittite cuneiform ** Hittite inscriptions ** Hittite laws ** Hittite religion ** ...
. Scripts similar in appearance to this writing system include those for
Ugaritic Ugaritic () is an extinct North-West Semitic language, classified by some as a dialect The term dialect (from Latin , , from the Ancient Greek word , , "discourse", from , , "through" and , , "I speak") is used in two distinct ways to refer to ...

Ugaritic
and
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other Old Iranian languages, it was known to its nat ...
.


Egyptian hieroglyphs

Writing was very important in maintaining the Egyptian empire, and
literacy Literacy is popularly understood as an ability to read and write Writing is a medium of human communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (ph ...
was concentrated among an educated elite of scribes. Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train as scribes, in the service of temple, royal (pharaonic), and military authorities. Geoffrey Sampson stated that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and, probably
ere Ere or ERE may refer to: * ''Environmental and Resource Economics ''Environmental and Resource Economics'' (''ERE'') is a peer-reviewed academic journal covering environmental economics published monthly in three volumes per year. It is the officia ...

ere
invented under the influence of the latter", and that it is "probable that the general idea of expressing words of a language in writing was brought to Egypt from Sumerian
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
". Despite the importance of early Egypt-Mesopotamia relations, given the lack of direct evidence "no definitive determination has been made as to the origin of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt". Instead, 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..." Since the 1990s, the discoveries of
glyphs In typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that are stored in the type case shown below it Typography is the art and technique of typesetting, arranging type to make wr ...
at Abydos, dated to between 3400 and 3200 BCE, may challenge the classical notion according to which the Mesopotamian symbol system predates the Egyptian one, although Egyptian writing does make a sudden appearance at that time, while on the contrary Mesopotamia has an evolutionary history of sign usage in tokens dating back to circa 8000 BCE."The seal impressions, from various tombs, date even further back, to 3400 B.C. These dates challenge the commonly held belief that early logographs, pictographic symbols representing a specific place, object, or quantity, first evolved into more complex phonetic symbols in Mesopotamia." These glyphs, found in tomb U-J at Abydos are written on ivory and are likely labels for other goods found in the grave.


Elamite script

The undeciphered Proto-Elamite script emerges from as early as 3100 BC. It is believed to have evolved into
Linear Elamite Linear Elamite is a Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of urban civilization. The Bronze Age is the second princip ...
by the later 3rd millennium and then replaced by
Elamite Cuneiform Elamite cuneiform was a logo-syllabic script used to write the Elamite language. The complete corpus of Elamite cuneiform consists of c. 20,000 tablets and fragments. The majority belong to the Achaemenid era, and contain primarily economic recor ...
adopted from Akkadian.


Indus script

Early
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
markings found at
Harappa Harappa (; Urdu Urdu (; ur, , ALA-LC: ) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The regi ...

Harappa
have been dated back to about 3300–3200 BCE belonging to the early
Indus Valley Civilisation , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta Terracotta, terra cotta, or terra-cotta (; Italian language, Italian: "baked earth", from the Latin ''terra cocta''), a type of earthenware, is a clay-based ceramic glaze, unglazed or glazed ceramic, where the ...
corresponding to what is now
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, e ...

Pakistan
. The script has not yet been deciphered. It is unclear whether it should be considered an example of proto-writing or whether it is actual writing of the logographic-syllabic type of the other Bronze Age writing systems.
Mortimer Wheeler Sir Robert Eric Mortimer Wheeler (10 September 1890 – 22 July 1976) was a British archaeologist and officer in the British Army The British Army is the principal Army, land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British ...
recognises the style of writing as
boustrophedon (one of the oldest known Latin inscriptions) is written boustrophedon, albeit irregularly: reading from top to bottom, lines 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16 run from right to left; lines 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 13, and 15, from left to right; 8, 9, and 16 a ...

boustrophedon
, where "this stability suggests a precarious maturity."


Early Semitic alphabets

The first pure
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic ...

alphabet
s (properly, "
abjad An abjad () is a type of writing system in which (in contrast to true alphabets) each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant, in effect leaving it to readers to infer or otherwise supply an appropriate vowel. The term is a neologism introduced i ...

abjad
s", mapping single symbols to single phonemes, but not necessarily each phoneme to a symbol) emerged around 1800 BC in
Ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric ...

Ancient Egypt
, as a representation of language developed by
Semitic Semitic most commonly refers to the Semitic languages, a name used since the 1770s to refer to the language family currently present in West Asia, North and East Africa, and Malta. Semitic may also refer to: Religions * Abrahamic religions ** ...
workers in Egypt, but by then alphabetic principles had a slight possibility of being inculcated into
Egyptian hieroglyph Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent ...
s 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 Proto-Sinaitic (also referred to as Sinaitic, Proto-Canaanite when found in Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic: ; Phoenician language, Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍 – ; he, כְּנַעַן – , i ...
splits into the
Proto-Canaanite alphabet Proto-Canaanite is the name given to :(a) the Proto-Sinaitic script Proto-Sinaitic (also referred to as Sinaitic, Proto-Canaanite when found in Canaan A 1692 map of Canaan, by Philip Lea Canaan (; Northwest Semitic: ; Phoenician langu ...
(c. 1400 BC) Byblos syllabary and the
South Arabian alphabet Image:Panel Almaqah Louvre DAO18.jpg, South Arabian inscription addressed to the Sabaean national god Almaqah The Ancient South Arabian script (Old South Arabian 𐩣𐩯𐩬𐩵 ''ms3nd''; modern ar, الْمُسْنَد ''musnad'') branch ...
(c. 1200 BC). The Proto-Canaanite was probably somehow influenced by the undeciphered
Byblos syllabary The Byblos script, also known as the Byblos syllabary, Pseudo-hieroglyphic script, Proto-Byblian, Proto-Byblic, or Byblic, is an undeciphered writing system, known from ten inscriptions found in Byblos, a coastal city in Lebanon Lebanon ( ...
and, in turn, inspired the
Ugaritic alphabet The Ugaritic writing system is a cuneiform abjad (consonantal alphabet) used from around either the fifteenth century BCE or 1300 BCE for Ugaritic, an extinct Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language, and discovered in Ugarit ...

Ugaritic alphabet
(c. 1300 BC).


Anatolian hieroglyphs

Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous hieroglyphic script native to western
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, used to record the
Hieroglyphic Luwian Hieroglyphic Luwian (''luwili'') is a variant of the Luwian language Luwian , sometimes known as Luvian or Luish, is an ancient language, or group of languages, within the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family A language i ...
language. It first appeared on
Luwian The Luwians were a group of Anatolian peoples who lived in central, western, and southern Anatolia, in present-day Turkey, in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. They spoke the Luwian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian languages, ...
royal seals from the 14th century BC.


Chinese writing

The earliest confirmed evidence of the Chinese script yet discovered is the body of inscriptions on oracle bones and bronze from the late Shang dynasty. The earliest of these is dated to around 1200 BC. There have recently been discoveries of tortoise-shell carvings dating back to c. 6000 BC, like Jiahu Script, Banpo Script, but whether or not the carvings are complex enough to qualify as writing is under debate. At
Damaidi Damaidi (; ''literally: Big wheat field''), is the location of 3,172 sets of early Chinese petroglyphs, carved into the cliffs which feature 8,453 individual figures. Cliff carving expert Li Xiangshi stated that "The pictographs are similar to ...
in the
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region Ningxia (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Ninghsia), officially the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (NHAR), is a landlocked Autonomous regions of China, autonomous region in the Northwest China, northwest of the China, Pe ...

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
, 3,172 cliff carvings dating to 6000–5000 BC have been discovered, featuring 8,453 individual characters, such as the sun, moon, stars, gods, and scenes of hunting or grazing. These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese. If it is deemed to be a written language, writing in China will predate Mesopotamian cuneiform, long acknowledged as the first appearance of writing, by some 2,000 years; however it is more likely that the inscriptions are rather a form of
proto-writing Proto-writing consists of visible marks Communication, communicating limited information. Such systems emerged from earlier traditions of symbol systems in the early Neolithic, as early as the 7th millennium BC in Ancient China, China. They used i ...
, similar to the contemporary European Vinca script.


Cretan and Greek scripts

Cretan hieroglyphs are found on artifacts of
Crete Crete ( el, Κρήτη, translit=, Modern Modern may refer to: History *Modern history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology Archaeology or archeology i ...

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 Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features ...
, 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 (note that the beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past):


Mesoamerica

A stone slab with 3,000-year-old writing, the
Cascajal BlockImage:Cascajal-text.svg, 260px, The 62 glyphs of the Olmec Cascajal Block The Cascajal Block is a tablet-sized writing slab in Mexico, made of serpentinite, which has been dated to the early first millennium Common Era, BCE, incised with hitherto unk ...
, 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 Mesoamerica is a historical and important region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics ( physical geography), human impact characteristics ( human geography), and the interaction of humanity and th ...
, the one that appears to have been best developed, and has been fully deciphered, is the
Maya script Maya script, also known as Maya glyphs, was the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, ...
. 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: a combination somewhat similar to modern Japanese writing.


Iron Age writing

left, The sculpture depicts a scene where three soothsayers are interpreting to King Suddhodana the dream of Queen Maya (mother of Buddha), Maya, mother of Gautama Buddha. Below them is seated a scribe recording the interpretation. From Nagarjunakonda, 2nd century CE. :File:Child_learning_Brahmi_Alphabets,_Shunga_era_2nd_Century_BCE,_National_Museum,_New_Delhi.jpg, A child learning the Brahmi Alphabet is also known from the 2nd century BC in Srughna. The
Phoenician alphabet The Phoenician alphabet is an alphabet (more specifically, an abjad) known in modern times from the Canaanite and Aramaic inscriptions found across the Mediterranean region. The Phoenician alphabet is also called the Early Linear script (in a S ...

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 alphabet, Aramaic and Greek alphabet, Greek alphabets. These in turn led to the writing systems used throughout regions ranging from Western Asia to Africa and Europe. For its part the Greek alphabet introduced for the first time explicit symbols for vowel sounds. 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 alphabet, Gothic and Cyrillic script, Cyrillic alphabets while the Aramaic alphabet evolved into the Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew, Arabic alphabet, Arabic and Syriac alphabet, Syriac abjads, of which the latter spread as far as Mongolian script. The
South Arabian alphabet Image:Panel Almaqah Louvre DAO18.jpg, South Arabian inscription addressed to the Sabaean national god Almaqah The Ancient South Arabian script (Old South Arabian 𐩣𐩯𐩬𐩵 ''ms3nd''; modern ar, الْمُسْنَد ''musnad'') branch ...
gave rise to the Ge'ez abugida. The Brahmic family of Indian subcontinent, India is believed by some scholars to have derived from the Aramaic alphabet as well.


Grakliani Hill writing

A previously unknown script was discovered in Georgia (country), Georgia, over the Grakliani Hill just below a temple's collapsed altar to a fertility goddess from the seventh century BCE. These inscriptions differ from those at other temples at Grakliani, which show animals, people, or decorative elements. The script bears no resemblance to any alphabet currently known, although its letters are conjectured to be related to ancient Greek alphabet, Greek and Aramaic. The inscription appears to be the oldest native alphabet to be discovered in the whole Caucasus region, In comparison, the earliest Armenian script, Armenian (8th century) and Georgian script date from the fifth century AD, just after the respective cultures converted to Christianity. By September 2015, an area of 31 by 3 inches of the inscription had been excavated. According to Vakhtang Licheli, head of the Institute of Archaeology of the State University, "The writings on the two altars of the temple are really well preserved. On the one altar several letters are carved in clay while the second altar’s pedestal is wholly covered with writings. The finding was made by unpaid students. In 2016 Grakliani Hill inscriptions were taken to Miami, Miami Laboratory for Radiocarbon dating, Beta analytic radiocarbon dating which shocked the world; Inscriptions are made in 1005-950 BC. According to Licheli, who headed the archaeological expedition, the collective findings affirm the 3000-year-old existence of a Georgian statehood.


Writing in the Greco-Roman civilizations

The history of the Greek alphabet began in at least the early 8th century BCE when the Greeks adapted the Phoenician alphabet for use with their own language.McCarter, P. Kyle. "The Early Diffusion of the Alphabet", ''The Biblical Archaeologist'' 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1974): 54-68. page 62. The letters of the Greek alphabet are more or less the same as those of the Phoenician alphabet, and in modern times both alphabets are arranged in the same order. The adapter(s) of the Phoenician system added three letters to the end of the series, called the "supplementals". Several varieties of the Greek alphabet developed. One, known as Cumae alphabet, Western Greek or Chalcidian, was used west of Athens and in southern Italy. The other variation, known as History of the Greek alphabet, 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, like the Phoenicians, the Greeks eventually chose to write from left to right. Occasionally however, the writer would start the next line where the previous line finished, so that the lines would read alternately left to right, then right to left, and so on. This was known as "boustrophedon" writing, which imitated the path of an ox-drawn plough, and was used until the sixth century. Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe. The most widespread descendant of Greek is the Latin script, named for the Latins (Italic tribe), Latins, a central Italian people who came to dominate Europe with the rise of Rome. The Romans learned writing in about the 5th century BC from the Etruscan civilization, who used one of a number of Italic scripts derived from the western Greeks. Due to the cultural dominance of the Roman state, the other Italic scripts have not survived in any great quantity, and the Etruscan language is mostly lost.


Writing during the Middle Ages

With the collapse of the Roman Empire, Roman authority in Western Europe, literary development became largely confined to the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. Latin, never one of the primary literary languages, rapidly declined in importance (except within the Roman Catholic Church). The primary literary languages were Greek language, Greek and Persian language, Persian, though other languages such as Syriac language, Syriac and Coptic language, Coptic were important too. The rise of Islam in the 7th century led to the rapid rise of Arabic language, Arabic as a major literary language in the region. Arabic and Persian quickly began to overshadow Greek's role as a language of scholarship. 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 language, Latin, and other languages. The Arabic language also served to spread the Hindu–Arabic numeral system throughout Europe. By the beginning of the second millennium, the city of Córdoba, Andalusia, Cordoba in modern Spain had become one of the foremost intellectual centers of the world and contained the world's largest library at the time. Its position as a crossroads between the Islamic and Western Christian worlds helped fuel intellectual development and written communication between both cultures.


Renaissance and the modern era

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.


Writing materials

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.McClintock, J., & Strong, J. (1885)
Cyclopedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature
Supplement. New York: Harper. Pages 990–997.
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. Metals, such as stamped coins, are mentioned as a material of writing; they include lead, brass, and gold. There are also references to the engraving of gems, 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 small pieces of clay, somewhat crudely 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 require the aid of a magnifying-glass. 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, having recorded use as far back as 3,000 B.C.E. 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. Wood-pulp paper is still used today, and in recent times efforts have been made in order to improve bond strength of fibers. Two main areas of examination in this regard have been "dry strength of paper" and "wet web strength". The former involves examination of the physical properties of the paper itself, while the latter involves using additives to improve strength.


See also

;Main:Phonetics, Palaeography, logograms, Brahmi, Devanagari, logographic,
Vinča signs Vinča ( sr-cyr, Винча, ) is a List of Belgrade neighborhoods, suburban settlement of Belgrade, Serbia. It is part of the municipality of Grocka. Vinča-Belo Brdo, an important archaeological site that gives its name to the Neolithic Vinča cu ...
, Asemic writing ;General: Alphabet, Palaeography, Inscriptions, Book, Manuscript, Shorthand, Latin alphabet,
writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the painful divisions between self and other, p ...
, Braille, ogham,
Indus script Collection of seals The Indus script (also known as the Harappan script) is a corpus of symbols produced by the Indus Valley Civilization , c. 2500 BCE. Terracotta figurines indicate the yoking of zebu oxen for pulling a cart and the ...

Indus script
, Mixtec, uncials, Zapotec civilization, Zapotec, Aurignacian, Chinese characters (Kanji, Hanja), Ugarit, Katakana, Hiragana, Acheulean, Ethnoarchaeology, Hoabinhian, Gravettian, Oldowan,
Uruk Uruk, also known as Warka, was an ancient city of Sumer (and later of Babylonia) situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates River on the dried-up ancient channel of the Euphrates east of modern Samawah, Muthanna Governorate, Al-Muthannā, ...
, Etruscan alphabet, Etruscan,
Cretan hieroglyphs Cretan hieroglyphs are a hieroglyph A hieroglyph ( Greek for "sacred carvings") was a character of the ancient Egyptian writing system. Logographic In a written language A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural ...
, Nabataean, Luwian,
Olmec The Olmecs () were the earliest known major Mesoamerica Mesoamerica is a historical region and cultural area in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western ...
, Busra, Tamil language, Tamil, Kannada, Grakliani Hill ;Other: History of numbers, History of art (Ancient art), Oral literature, History of developmental dyslexia, Protoscholastic writing *Bastarda *Blackletter *Book hand *Calligraphy *Chancery hand *Court hand (also known as common law hand, Anglicana, cursiva antiquior, or charter hand) *Cursive *Hand (writing style) *Handwriting *Italic script *Law hand *Penmanship *Ronde script (calligraphy) *Rotunda (script) *Round hand *Secretary hand


Notes


References


Citations


Sources

* * * * Lambert, J.L.F. (2014-2017). Termcraft: The emergence of terminology science from the Vinčans and Sumerians to Aristotle. Lulu Press. .


Further reading

; 21st century sources * ''The Idea of Writing: Writing Across Borders.'' Edited by Alex de Voogt, Joachim Friedrich Quack. BRILL, 9 Dec 2011. *Barry B. Powell, Powell, Barry B. 2009. ''Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization,'' Oxford: Blackwell. * 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. * Jean-Jacques Glassner. ''The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer.'' JHU Press, 2003. ; Late 20th century sources * W. Andrew Robinson, Andrew Robinson, ''The Story of Writing.'' Thames & Hudson 1995 (second edition: 1999). * Hans J. Nissen, P. Damerow, R. Englund, ''Archaic Bookkeeping'', University of Chicago Press, 1993, * Denise Schmandt-Besserat, ''Before Writing, Vol. I: From Counting to Cuneiform.'' University of Texas Press, 1992. * Denise Schmandt-Besserat
HomePage
''How Writing Came About'', University of Texas Press, 1992, . * 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 * David Diringer ''Writing.'' New York: Praeger. 1962. * Otto Neugebauer, Abraham Joseph Sachs, Albrecht Götze. ''Mathematical Cuneiform Texts.'' Pub. jointly by the American Oriental Society and the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1945. * William Anton Smith, Smith, William Anton
''The Reading Process''
New York: The Macmillan company, 1922. * Hugh Chisholm, Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information. Cambridge, Eng: University Press, 1911. "Writing". * Edward Clodd, Clodd, Edward
''The Story of the Alphabet''
Library of useful stories.


External links

; Cuneiform
cdli:wiki
Assyriological tools for specialists in cuneiform studies ; General

historian.net

*[http://thenewpostliterate.blogspot.com/ The New Post-Literate] *Denise Schmandt-Besserat &nbs
HomePage
; Broadcasts
Cracking the Maya Code
Nova (American TV series), NOVA, Public Broadcasting Service.
Timeline (flash)

BBC on tortoise shells discovered in ChinaFragments of pottery discovered in modern PakistanEgyptian hieroglyphs c. 3000 BC
{{DEFAULTSORT:History of Writing History of writing,