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The history of writing traces the development of expressing language by letters or other marks[1] and also the studies and descriptions of these developments. 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 or early mnemonic symbols. True writing, in which the 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. It is distinguished from proto-writing, which typically avoids encoding grammatical words and affixes, making it more difficult or 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 forms of written expression is cuneiform.[2]

Contents

1 Inventions of writing 2 Writing systems 3 Recorded history 4 Developmental stages

4.1 Literature
Literature
and writing

5 Locations and timeframes

5.1 Proto-writing 5.2 Bronze Age
Bronze Age
writing

5.2.1 Cuneiform
Cuneiform
script 5.2.2 Egyptian hieroglyphs 5.2.3 Elamite script 5.2.4 Indus script 5.2.5 Early Semitic alphabets 5.2.6 Anatolian hieroglyphs 5.2.7 Chinese writing 5.2.8 Cretan and Greek scripts 5.2.9 Mesoamerica

5.3 Iron Age
Iron Age
writing 5.4 Writing in the Greco-Roman civilizations 5.5 Writing during the Middle Ages 5.6 Renaissance
Renaissance
and the modern era

6 Writing materials 7 See also 8 Citations 9 References 10 Further reading 11 External links

Inventions of writing[edit] See also: List of languages by first written accounts

Sumer, an ancient civilization of southern Mesopotamia, is believed to be the place where written language was first invented around 3100 BC

Limestone Kish tablet
Kish tablet
from Sumer
Sumer
with pictographic writing; may be the earliest known writing, 3500 BC. Ashmolean Museum

Writing numbers for the purpose of record keeping began long before the writing of language. See History of writing ancient numbers
History of writing ancient numbers
for how the writing of numbers began. It is generally agreed that true writing of language (not only numbers) was independently conceived and developed in at least two ancient civilizations and possibly more. The two places where it is most certain that the concept of writing was both conceived and developed independently are in ancient Sumer
Sumer
(in Mesopotamia), around 3100 BC, and in Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica
by 300 BC,[3] because no precursors have been found to either of these in their respective regions. Several Mesoamerican scripts
Mesoamerican scripts
are known, the oldest being from the Olmec
Olmec
or Zapotec of Mexico. Independent writing systems also arose in Egypt around 3100 BC and in China around 1200 BC,[4] but historians debate whether these writing systems were developed completely independently of Sumerian writing or whether either or both were inspired by Sumerian writing via a process of cultural diffusion. That is, it is possible that the concept of representing language by using writing, though not necessarily the specifics of how such a system worked, was passed on by traders or merchants traveling between the two regions. Ancient Chinese characters
Chinese characters
are considered by many to be an independent invention because there is no evidence of contact between ancient China and the literate civilizations of the Near East,[5] and because of the distinct differences between the Mesopotamian and Chinese approaches to logography and phonetic representation.[6] 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.[7] In 1999, Archaeology Magazine reported that the earliest Egyptian glyphs date back to 3400 BC, which "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."[8] Similar debate surrounds the Indus script
Indus script
of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Indus Valley civilization in Ancient India
India
(2600 BC). In addition, the script is still undeciphered, and there is debate about whether the script is true writing at all or, instead, some kind of proto-writing or nonlinguistic sign system. An additional possibility is the undeciphered Rongorongo
Rongorongo
script of Easter Island. It is debated whether this is true writing and, if it is, whether it is another case of cultural diffusion of writing. The oldest example is from 1851, 139 years after their first contact with Europeans. One explanation is that the script was inspired by Spain's written annexation proclamation in 1770.[9] 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
Pahawh Hmong
system for writing the Hmong language. Writing systems[edit] Main article: Writing system Symbolic communication systems are distinguished from writing systems in that one must usually understand something of the associated spoken language to comprehend the text. In contrast, 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 their partial supplantation of traditional 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. 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 knowledge. Recorded history[edit] Main articles: Recorded history
Recorded history
and Early literature

Human history and prehistory

↑ before Homo  ( Pliocene
Pliocene
epoch)

Prehistory (three-age system)

Stone Age

Lower Paleolithic
Lower Paleolithic
 

Homo Homo
Homo
erectus

Middle Paleolithic  Early Homo
Homo
sapiens Upper Paleolithic
Upper Paleolithic
  Behavioral modernity Neolithic  Cradle of civilization

Bronze Age

China Europe India Near East

Iron Age Bronze Age
Bronze Age
collapse

China Europe India Japan Korea Near East Nigeria

Recorded history

Ancient history Earliest records Post-classical history Modern history

Early Later Contemporary

↓ Future

v t e

Scholars make a reasonable distinction between prehistory and history of early writing[10] but have disagreed concerning when prehistory becomes history and when proto-writing became "true writing." The definition is largely subjective.[11] Writing, in its most general terms, is a method of recording information and is composed of graphemes, which may in turn be composed of glyphs.[12] 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).[10] The invention of writing was not a one-time event but was a gradual process initiated by the appearance of symbols, possibly first for cultic purposes. Developmental stages[edit]

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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) represents a whole word. Syllabic: grapheme represents a syllable. Alphabetic: grapheme represents an elementary sound.

The best known picture writing system of ideographic or early mnemonic symbols are:

Jiahu
Jiahu
symbols, carved on tortoise shells in Jiahu, c. 6600 BC Vinča signs
Vinča signs
(Tărtăria tablets), c. 5300 BC[13] Early Indus script, c. 3100 BC

In the Old World, true writing systems developed from neolithic writing in the Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
(4th millennium BC). The Sumerian archaic (pre-cuneiform) writing and the Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
are generally considered the earliest true writing systems, both emerging out of their ancestral proto-literate symbol systems from 3400–3100 BC, with earliest coherent texts from about 2600 BC. Literature
Literature
and writing[edit] Literature
Literature
and writing, though obviously connected, are not synonymous. The very first writings from ancient Sumer
Sumer
by any reasonable definition do not constitute literature. The same is true of some of the early Egyptian hieroglyphics
Egyptian hieroglyphics
and the thousands of ancient Chinese government records. The history of literature begins with the history of writing. Scholars have disagreed concerning when written record-keeping became more like literature than anything else, but "literature" can have several meanings. The term could be applied broadly to mean any symbolic record from images and sculptures to letters. The oldest surviving literary texts date from a full millennium after the invention of writing to the late 3rd millennium BC. The earliest literary authors known by name are Ptahhotep (who wrote in Egyptian) and Enheduanna
Enheduanna
(who wrote in Sumerian), dating to around 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: i.e., from around 3100 to 2600 BC. Locations and timeframes[edit] Proto-writing[edit] Main article: Proto-writing Further information: Prehistoric numerals See also: History
History
of communication

Examples of the Jiahu
Jiahu
symbols, markings found on tortoise shells, dated around 6000 BC. Most of the signs were separately inscribed on different shells. [14]

The first writing systems of the Early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
were not a sudden invention. Rather, they were a development based on earlier traditions of 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 or early mnemonic symbols to convey information, but it probably directly contained no natural language. These systems emerged in the early Neolithic
Neolithic
period, as early as the 7th millennium BC
7th millennium BC
evidenced by the Jiahu symbols
Jiahu symbols
in China. In 2003, tortoise shells were found in 24 Neolithic
Neolithic
graves excavated at Jiahu, Henan
Henan
province, northern China, with radiocarbon dates from the 7th millennium BC. According to some archaeologists, the symbols carved on the shells had similarities to the late 2nd millennium BC oracle bone script.[15] Most archaeologists have dismissed this claim as insufficiently substantiated, claiming that simple geometric designs, such as those found on the Jiahu
Jiahu
shells, cannot be linked to early writing.[16] Other neolithic signs have also been found in China. The Vinča signs
Vinča signs
show an evolution of simple symbols, beginning in the 7th millennium BC, gradually increasing in complexity throughout the 6th millennium and culminating in the Tărtăria tablets of c. 5300 BC[13] with their rows of symbols carefully aligned, evoking the impression of a text. The Dispilio Tablet
Dispilio Tablet
of the late 6th millennium is similar. The hieroglyphic scripts of the Ancient Near East
Ancient Near East
(Egyptian, Sumerian proto-Cuneiform, and Cretan) seamlessly emerge from such symbol systems so that it is difficult to say at what exact time writing developed from proto-writing. Further, very little is known about the symbols' meanings. Even after the Neolithic, several cultures went through an intermediate stage of proto-writing before they used proper writing. The "Slavic runes" from the 7th and 8th centuries AD, mentioned by a few medieval authors, may have been such a system. The quipu of the Incas
Incas
(15th century AD), sometimes called "talking knots," may have been of a similar nature. Another example is the pictographs invented by Uyaquk before the development of the Yugtun syllabary (c. 1900). Bronze Age
Bronze Age
writing[edit] Further information: History
History
of the alphabet Writing emerged in many different cultures in the Bronze Age. Examples are the cuneiform writing of the Sumerians, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Cretan hieroglyphs, Chinese logographs, Indus script, and the Olmec script of Mesoamerica. The Chinese script
Chinese script
likely developed independently of the Middle Eastern scripts around 1600 BC. The pre-Columbian Mesoamerican writing systems
Mesoamerican writing systems
(including Olmec
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
History
of the alphabet and Proto-Sinaitic alphabet). The Ge'ez
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.[17] 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 Italy, about 500 years passed from the early Old Italic alphabet
Old Italic alphabet
to Plautus
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
Elder Futhark
inscriptions to early texts like the Abrogans
Abrogans
(c. AD 200 to 750). Cuneiform
Cuneiform
script[edit]

Middle Babylonian legal tablet from Alalah in its envelope

Main article: Cuneiform
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, 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 by 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. Egyptian hieroglyphs[edit] Main article: Egyptian hieroglyphs 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 as scribes, in the service of temple, royal (pharaonic), and military authorities. Geoffrey Sampson believes that most scholars hold that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script, and ... probably [were] invented under the influence of the latter ..."[18] This view, however, is strongly contested by other scholars. Dreyer's findings at Tomb UJ at Abydos in Upper Egypt
Upper Egypt
clearly show place names written in hieroglyphs (up to four in number) recognizable as signs, which persisted and were employed during later periods and which are written and read phonetically. The tomb is dated to c. 3250 BC and demonstrates that such writing (on bone and ivory labels) is a more advanced form of writing than was evident in Sumer
Sumer
at that date. It is argued, therefore, that the Egyptian writing system, which is in any case very different from the Mesopotamian, could not have been the result of influence from a less-developed system existing at that date in Sumer.[19] Elamite script[edit] Main article: Proto-Elamite script The undeciphered Proto-Elamite script
Proto-Elamite script
emerges from as early as 3100 BC. It is believed to have evolved into Linear Elamite
Linear Elamite
by the later 3rd millennium and then replaced by Elamite Cuneiform
Cuneiform
adopted from Akkadian. Indus script[edit] Main article: Indus script

Sequence of ten Indus signs discovered near the northern gate of the Indus site Dholavira

The Middle Bronze Age
Bronze Age
Indus script, which dates back to the early Harappan phase of around 3000 BC in ancient north western India
India
and what is now Pakistan, has not yet been deciphered.[20] 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
Bronze Age
writing systems. Mortimer Wheeler
Mortimer Wheeler
recognises the style of writing as boustrophedon, where "this stability suggests a precarious maturity." Early Semitic alphabets[edit] Main article: Middle Bronze Age
Bronze Age
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.[clarification needed] These early abjads remained of marginal importance for several centuries, and it is only towards the end of the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
that the Proto-Sinaitic script
Proto-Sinaitic script
splits into the Proto-Canaanite alphabet (c. 1400 BC) Byblos syllabary and the South Arabian alphabet
South Arabian alphabet
(c. 1200 BC). The Proto-Canaanite was probably somehow influenced by the undeciphered Byblos syllabary and, in turn, inspired the Ugaritic alphabet (c. 1300 BC). Anatolian hieroglyphs[edit] Main article: Anatolian hieroglyphs Anatolian hieroglyphs
Anatolian hieroglyphs
are an indigenous hieroglyphic script native to western Anatolia, used to record the Hieroglyphic
Hieroglyphic
Luwian
Luwian
language. It first appeared on Luwian
Luwian
royal seals from the 14th century BC. Chinese writing[edit] Main articles: Chinese writing
Chinese writing
and Chinese characters The earliest confirmed evidence of the Chinese script
Chinese script
yet discovered is the body of inscriptions on oracle bones from the late Shang dynasty (c. 1200–1050 BC). From the Shang Dynasty, most of this writing has survived on bones or bronze implements (bronze script). Markings on turtle shells, or jiaguwen, have been carbon-dated to around 1500 BC.[21][21][22] Historians have found that the type of medium chosen depended on the subject of the writing. There have recently been discoveries of tortoise-shell carvings dating back to c. 6000 BC, like Jiahu
Jiahu
Script, Banpo Script, but whether or not the carvings are complex enough to qualify as writing is under debate.[15] At Damaidi in the 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, similar to the contemporary European Vinca script. Cretan and Greek scripts[edit] Main articles: Cretan hieroglyphs, Linear A, and Linear B Cretan hieroglyphs
Cretan hieroglyphs
are found on artifacts of Crete
Crete
(early-to-mid-2nd millennium BC, MM I to MM III, overlapping with Linear A
Linear A
from MM IIA at the earliest). Linear B, the writing system of the Mycenaean Greeks,[23] has been deciphered while Linear A
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):[23]

Writing system Geographical area Time span

Cretan Hieroglyphic Crete c. 1625−1500 BC

Linear A Aegean islands
Aegean islands
(Kea, Kythera, Melos, Thera), and Greek mainland (Laconia) c. 18th century−1450 BC

Linear B Crete
Crete
(Knossos), and mainland (Pylos, Mycenae, Thebes, Tiryns) c. 1375−1200 BC

Mesoamerica[edit] Main article: Mesoamerican writing systems A stone slab with 3,000-year-old writing, the Cascajal Block, was discovered in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and is an example of the oldest script in the Western Hemisphere, preceding the oldest Zapotec writing dated to about 500 BC.[24][25][26] Of several pre-Columbian scripts in Mesoamerica, the one that appears to have been best developed, and has been 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: a combination somewhat similar to modern Japanese writing. Iron Age
Iron Age
writing[edit] Main article: History
History
of the alphabet

Cippus Perusinus, Etruscan writing near Perugia, Italy, the precursor of the Latin alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
is simply the Proto-Canaanite alphabet as it was continued into the Iron Age
Iron Age
(conventionally taken from a cut-off date of 1050 BC). This alphabet gave rise to the Aramaic and 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
Greek alphabet
introduced for the first time explicit symbols for vowel sounds.[27] The Greek and Latin alphabets in the early centuries of the Common Era gave rise to several European scripts such as the Runes
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
Ge'ez
abugida. The Brahmic family
Brahmic family
of India
India
is believed by some scholars to have derived from the Aramaic alphabet as well.[28] Writing in the Greco-Roman civilizations[edit]

Early Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
on pottery in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens

The history of the Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
started when the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet
and adapted it to their own language.[29] The letters of the Greek alphabet
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.[29] 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
Greek alphabet
developed. One, known as Western Greek or Chalcidian, was used west of Athens
Athens
and in southern Italy. The other variation, known as Eastern Greek, was used in present-day Turkey
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. Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe. The most widespread descendent of Greek is the Latin script, named for the 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[edit] With the collapse of the Roman authority in Western Europe, the literary development became largely confined to the Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. Latin, never one of the primary literary languages, rapidly declined in importance (except within the Church of Rome). The primary literary languages were Greek and Persian, though other languages such as Syriac and Coptic were important too. The rise of Islam
Islam
in the 7th century led to the rapid rise of 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
Persian language
and the Turkish language. This script also heavily influenced the development of the cursive scripts of Greek, the Slavic languages, Latin, and other languages[citation needed]. The Arabic language
Arabic language
also served to spread the Hindu–Arabic numeral system
Hindu–Arabic numeral system
throughout Europe.[citation needed] By the beginning of the second millennium the city of 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.[30] Its position as a crossroads between the Islamic and Western Christian worlds helped fuel intellectual development and written communication between both cultures. Renaissance
Renaissance
and the modern era[edit] 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
Islamic Golden Age
ended. The revival of literary development in Western Europe led to many innovations in the Latin alphabet and the diversification of the alphabet to codify the phonologies of the various languages. The nature of writing has been constantly evolving, particularly due to the development of new technologies over the centuries. The pen, the printing press, the computer and the mobile phone are all technological developments which have altered what is written, and the medium through which the written word is produced. Particularly with the advent of digital technologies, namely the computer and the mobile phone, characters can be formed by the press of a button, rather than making a physical motion with the hand. The nature of the written word has recently evolved to include an informal, colloquial written style, in which an everyday conversation can occur through writing rather than speaking. Written communication can also be delivered with minimal time delay (e-mail, SMS), and in some cases, with an imperceptible time delay (instant messaging). Writing is a preservable means of communication. Some people regard the growth of multimedia literacy as the first step towards a postliterate society. Writing materials[edit] Main article: Writing material 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.[31] 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.[31] Metals, such as stamped coins, are mentioned as a material of writing; they include lead,[32] brass, and gold. To the engraving of gems there is reference also, such as with seals or signets.[31] 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.[according to whom?] There are small pieces of clay, somewhat rudely shaped into a form resembling a pillow, and thickly inscribed with cuneiform characters.[33] 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.[31] In Egypt the principal writing material was of quite a different sort. Wooden tablets are found pictured on the monuments; but the material which was in common use, even from very ancient times, was the papyrus. This reed, found chiefly in Lower Egypt, had various economic means for writing, the pith was taken out, and divided by a pointed instrument into the thin pieces of which it is composed; it was then flattened by pressure, and the strips glued together, other strips being placed at right angles to them, so that a roll of any length might be manufactured. Writing seems to have become more widespread with the invention of papyrus in Egypt. That this material was in use in Egypt from a very early period is evidenced by still existing papyrus of the earliest Theban dynasties. As the papyrus, being in great demand, and exported to all parts of the world, became very costly, other materials were often used instead of it, among which is mentioned leather, a few leather mills of an early period having been found in the tombs.[31] 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. See also[edit]

Main Phonetics, Palaeography, logograms, Brahmi, Devanagari, logographic, Vinča signs, Asemic writing General Alphabet, Palaeography, Inscriptions, Book, Manuscript, Shorthand, Latin alphabet, writing system, ogham, Indus script, Mixtec, uncials, Zapotec, Aurignacian, Chinese characters
Chinese characters
(kanji, hanja), Ugarit, katakana, Acheulean, Ethnoarchaeology, Hoabinhian, Gravettian, Oldowan, Uruk, Etruscan, Cretan hieroglyphs, Nabataean, Luwian, Olmec, Busra, Tamil, Kannada, Grakliani Hill Other History
History
of numbers, History
History
of art (Ancient art), Oral literature, History
History
of developmental dyslexia

Citations[edit]

^ Peter T. Daniels, "The Study of Writing Systems", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Bright and Daniels, p.3 ^ Empires of the Plain: Henry Rawlinson and the Lost Languages of Babylon, New York, St. Martin's Press (2003) ISBN 0-312-33002-2 ^ Brian M. Fagan, Charlotte Beck, ed. (1996). The Oxford Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press. p. 762. ISBN 978-0-19-507618-9.  ^ William G. Boltz, "Early Chinese Writing", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Bright and Daniels, p.191 ^ David N. Keightley, Noel Barnard. The Origins of Chinese civilization Page 415-416 ^ Sex and Eroticism in Mesopotamian Literature. By Dr Gwendolyn Leick. Pg 3. ^ Peter T. Daniels, "The First Civilizations", in The World's Writing Systems, ed. Bright and Daniels, p.24 ^ Mitchell, Larkin. "Earliest Egyptian Glyphs". Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. Retrieved 29 February 2012.  ^ Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel, page 231 ^ a b Shotwell, James Thomson. An Introduction to the History
History
of History. Records of civilization, sources and studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 1922. ^ Smail, Daniel Lord. On Deep History
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. ^ a b Haarmann, Harald: "Geschichte der Schrift", C.H. Beck, 2002, ISBN 3-406-47998-7, p. 20 ^ Helen R. Pilcher 'Earliest handwriting found? Chinese relics hint at Neolithic
Neolithic
rituals', Nature (30 April 2003), doi:10.1038/news030428-7 "Symbols carved into tortoise shells more than 8,000 years ago [...] unearthed at a mass-burial site at Jiahu
Jiahu
in the Henan
Henan
Province of western China". Li, X., Harbottle, G., Zhang, J. & Wang, C. 'The earliest writing? Sign use in the seventh millennium BC at Jiahu, Henan
Henan
Province, China'. Antiquity, 77, 31 - 44, (2003). ^ a b "Archaeologists Rewrite History". China Daily. 12 June 2003 . ^ Houston, Stephen D. (2004). The First Writing: Script Invention as History
History
and Process. Cambridge University Press. pp. 245–6. ISBN 978-0-521-83861-0.  ^ "Meroitic Writing System". Library.cornell.edu. 2004-04-04. Retrieved 2010-01-31.  ^ Geoffrey Sampson, Writing Systems: a Linguistic Introduction, Stanford University Press, 1990, p. 78. ^ Gunther Dreyer. A Hundred Years at Abydos. ^ Whitehouse, David (1999) 'Earliest writing' found BBC ^ 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
Special
Issue: The New Erudition. (Autumn, 1996), pp.68–95 (68). ^ a b Olivier 1986, pp. 377f. ^ "Writing May Be Oldest in Western Hemisphere". New York Times. 2006-09-15. 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. Retrieved 2008-03-30. Ancient civilisations in Mexico
Mexico
developed a writing system as early as 900 BC, new evidence suggests.  ^ "Oldest Writing in the New World". Science. Retrieved 2008-03-30. A block with a hitherto unknown system of writing has been found in the Olmec
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
Olmec
civilization of Mesoamerica.  ^ Millard 1986, p. 396 ^ Salomon, Richard (1996). " Brahmi
Brahmi
and Kharoshthi". The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-507993-0.  ^ a b McCarter, P. Kyle. "The Early Diffusion of the Alphabet", The Biblical Archaeologist 37, No. 3 (Sep., 1974): 54-68. page 62. ^ Bury, J.B. The Cambridge Medieval History
History
volumes 1-5. p. 1215.  ^ 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.

References[edit]

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. 

Further reading[edit]

21st century sources

The Idea of Writing: Writing Across Borders. Edited by Alex de Voogt, Joachim Friedrich Quack. BRILL, Dec 9, 2011. Powell, Barry B. 2009. Writing: Theory and History
History
of the Technology of Civilization, Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-6256-2 Steven R. Fischer A History
History
of Writing, Reaktion Books 2005 CN136481 Hoffman, Joel M. 2004. In the Beginning: A Short History
History
of the Hebrew Language. New York University Press. Chapter 3. Jean-Jacques Glassne. The Invention of Cuneiform: Writing in Sumer. JHU Press, 2003. ISBN 0801873894

Late 20th century sources

Andrew Robinson, The Story of Writing. Thames & Hudson 1995 (second edition: 1999). ISBN 0-500-28156-4 Hans J. Nissen, P. Damerow, R. Englund, Archaic Bookkeeping, University of Chicago Press, 1993, ISBN 0-500-01665-8 Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing, Vol. I: From Counting to Cuneiform. University of Texas Press, 1992. ISBN 0292707835 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

Otto Neugebauer, Abraham Joseph Sachs, Albrecht Götze. Mathematical Cuneiform
Cuneiform
Texts. Pub. jointly by the American Oriental Society and the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1945. Smith, William Anton. The Reading Process. New York: The Macmillan company, 1922. Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature
Literature
and General Information. Cambridge, Eng: University Press, 1911. "Writing". Clodd, Edward. The Story of the Alphabet. Library of useful stories.

External links[edit]

Cuneiform

cdli:wiki: Assyriological tools for specialists in cuneiform studies

General

History
History
of Writing. historian.net Alphabet
Alphabet
& protoalphabet the manifest of astrologic doctrine? The New Post-Literate Denise Schmandt-Besserat  HomePage The Ethiopic Alphabet
Alphabet
By Dr. Aberra Molla Children of the Code: A Brief History
History
of Writing – Online Video

Broadcasts

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
Egyptian hieroglyphs
c. 3000 BC

v t e

Writing systems

Overview

History
History
of writing History
History
of the alphabet Graphemes Scripts in Unicode

Lists

Writing systems Languages by writing system / by first written account Undeciphered writing systems Inventors of writing systems

Types

Featural Alphabets Abjads Alphasyllabaries / Abugidas Syllabaries Semi-syllabaries Ideogrammic Pictographic Logographic Numeral

v t e

Types of writing systems

Overview

History
History
of writing Grapheme

Lists

Writing systems

undeciphered inventors constructed

Languages by writing system / by first written accounts

Types

Abjads

Numerals

Aramaic

Hatran

Arabic Pitman shorthand Hebrew

Ashuri Cursive Rashi Solitreo

Tifinagh Manichaean Nabataean Old North Arabian Pahlavi Pegon Phoenician

Paleo-Hebrew

Proto-Sinaitic Psalter Punic Samaritan South Arabian

Zabur Musnad

Sogdian Syriac

ʾEsṭrangēlā Serṭā Maḏnḥāyā

Teeline Shorthand Ugaritic

Abugidas

Brahmic

Northern

Asamiya (Ôxômiya) Bānglā Bhaikshuki Bhujinmol Brāhmī Devanāgarī Dogri Gujarati Gupta Gurmukhī Kaithi Kalinga Khojki Khotanese Khudawadi Laṇḍā Lepcha Limbu Mahajani Meitei Mayek Modi Multani Nāgarī Nandinagari Odia 'Phags-pa Newar Ranjana Sharada Saurashtra Siddhaṃ Soyombo Sylheti Nagari Takri Tibetan

Uchen Umê

Tirhuta Tocharian Zanabazar Square Zhang-Zhung

Drusha Marchen Marchung Pungs-chen Pungs-chung

Southern

Ahom Balinese Batak Baybayin Bhattiprolu Buhid Burmese Chakma Cham Grantha Goykanadi Hanunó'o Javanese Kadamba Kannada Karen Kawi Khmer Kulitan Lanna Lao Leke Lontara Malayalam Maldivian

Dhives Akuru Eveyla Akuru Thaana

Mon Old Makassarese Old Sundanese Pallava Pyu Rejang Rencong Sinhala Sundanese Tagbanwa Tai Le Tai Tham Tai Viet Tamil Telugu Thai Tigalari Vatteluttu

Kolezhuthu Malayanma

Visayan

Others

Boyd's syllabic shorthand Canadian syllabics

Blackfoot Déné syllabics

Fox I Ge'ez Gunjala Gondi Japanese Braille Jenticha Kayah Li Kharosthi Mandombe Masaram Gondi Meroitic Miao Mwangwego Sorang Sompeng Pahawh Hmong Thomas Natural Shorthand

Alphabets

Linear

Abkhaz Adlam Armenian Avestan Avoiuli Bassa Vah Borama Carian Caucasian Albanian Coorgi–Cox alphabet Coptic Cyrillic Deseret Duployan shorthand

Chinook writing

Early Cyrillic Eclectic shorthand Elbasan Etruscan Evenki Fox II Fraser Gabelsberger shorthand Garay Georgian

Asomtavruli Nuskhuri Mkhedruli

Glagolitic Gothic Gregg shorthand Greek Greco-Iberian alphabet Hangul Hanifi IPA Kaddare Latin

Beneventan Blackletter Carolingian minuscule Fraktur Gaelic Insular Kurrent Merovingian Sigla Sütterlin Tironian notes Visigothic

Luo Lycian Lydian Manchu Mandaic Medefaidrin Molodtsov Mongolian Mru Neo-Tifinagh New Tai Lue N'Ko Ogham Oirat Ol Chiki Old Hungarian Old Italic Old Permic Orkhon Old Uyghur Osage Osmanya Pau Cin Hau Runic

Anglo-Saxon Cipher Dalecarlian Elder Futhark Younger Futhark Gothic Marcomannic Medieval Staveless

Sidetic Shavian Somali Tifinagh Vagindra Visible Speech Vithkuqi Wancho Zaghawa

Non-linear

Braille Maritime flags Morse code New York Point Semaphore line Flag semaphore Moon type

Ideograms/Pictograms

Adinkra Aztec Blissymbol Dongba Ersu Shaba Emoji IConji Isotype Kaidā Míkmaq Mixtec New Epoch Notation Painting Nsibidi Ojibwe Hieroglyphs Siglas poveiras Testerian Yerkish Zapotec

Logograms

Chinese family of scripts

Chinese Characters

Simplified Traditional Oracle bone script Bronze Script Seal Script

large small bird-worm

Hanja Idu Kanji Chữ nôm Zhuang

Chinese-influenced

Jurchen Khitan large script Sui Tangut

Cuneiform

Akkadian Assyrian Elamite Hittite Luwian Sumerian

Other logo-syllabic

Anatolian Bagam Cretan Isthmian Maya Proto-Elamite Yi (Classical)

Logo-consonantal

Demotic Hieratic Hieroglyphs

Numerals

Hindu-Arabic Abjad Attic (Greek) Muisca Roman

Semi-syllabaries

Full

Celtiberian Northeastern Iberian Southeastern Iberian Khom

Redundant

Espanca Pahawh Hmong Khitan small script Southwest Paleohispanic Zhuyin fuhao

Somacheirograms

ASLwrite SignWriting si5s Stokoe Notation

Syllabaries

Afaka Bamum Bété Byblos Cherokee Cypriot Cypro-Minoan Ditema tsa Dinoko Eskayan Geba Great Lakes Algonquian syllabics Iban Japanese

Hiragana Katakana Man'yōgana Hentaigana Sogana Jindai moji

Kikakui Kpelle Linear B Linear Elamite Lisu Loma Nüshu Nwagu Aneke script Old Persian Cuneiform Vai Woleai Yi (Modern) Yugtun

v t e

Braille
Braille
 ⠃⠗⠁⠊⠇⠇⠑

Braille
Braille
cell

1829 braille International uniformity ASCII braille Unicode
Unicode
braille patterns

Braille
Braille
scripts

French-ordered scripts (see for more)

Albanian Amharic Arabic Armenian Azerbaijani Belarusian Bharati

Devanagari
Devanagari
(Hindi  / Marathi  / Nepali) Bengali Punjabi Sinhalese Tamil Urdu etc.

Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian Cantonese Catalan Chinese (Mandarin, mainland) Czech Dutch Dzongkha (Bhutanese) English (Unified English) Esperanto Estonian Faroese French Georgian German Ghanaian Greek Guarani Hawaiian Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Inuktitut (reassigned vowels) Iñupiaq IPA Irish Italian Kazakh Kyrgyz Latvian Lithuanian Maltese Mongolian Māori Navajo Nigerian Northern Sami Persian Philippine Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Samoan Scandinavian Slovak South African Spanish Tatar Taiwanese Mandarin (largely reassigned) Thai & Lao (Japanese vowels) Tibetan Turkish Ukrainian Vietnamese Welsh Yugoslav

Reordered scripts

Algerian Braille
Braille
(obsolete)

Frequency-based scripts

American Braille
Braille
(obsolete)

Independent scripts

Japanese Korean Two-Cell Chinese

Eight-dot scripts

Luxembourgish Kanji Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8)

Symbols in braille

Braille
Braille
music Canadian currency marks Computer
Computer
Braille
Braille
Code Gardner–Salinas braille codes (GS8/GS6) International Phonetic Alphabet
Alphabet
(IPA) Nemeth braille code

Braille
Braille
technology

Braille
Braille
e-book Braille
Braille
embosser Braille
Braille
translator Braille
Braille
watch Mountbatten Brailler Optical braille recognition Perforation Perkins Brailler Refreshable braille display Slate and stylus Braigo

Persons

Louis Braille Charles Barbier Valentin Haüy Thakur Vishva Narain Singh Sabriye Tenberken William Bell Wait

Organisations

Braille
Braille
Institute of America Braille
Braille
Without Borders Japan Braille
Braille
Library National Braille
Braille
Association Blindness organizations Schools for the blind American Printing House for the Blind

Other tactile alphabets

Decapoint Moon type New York Point Night writing Vibratese

Related topics

Accessible publishing Braille
Braille
literacy RoboBraille

v t e

Electronic writing systems

Emoticons Emoji iConji Leet Unicode

v t e

Internet slang
Internet slang
dialects

3arabizi Alay (Indonesia) Denglisch Doge Fingilish (Persian) Greeklish Gyaru-moji (Japan) Jejemon (Philippines) Leet
Leet
("1337") Lolspeak / LOLspeak / Kitteh Martian language (Chinese) Miguxês (Portuguese) Padonkaffsky jargon
Padonkaffsky jargon
(Russian) Translit Volapuk

See also English internet slang (at Wiktio

.