*** ancient civilizations writing

Ancient Civilizations: Writing

civilization and writing
Figure 1.--Here we have a fragment of an Indian clay figurine. It depicts a child (almost certainly a boy) learning the Brahmi alphabet. It is dated to the Shunga era (2nd century BC). Source: National Museum, New Delhi. Writing could only occur as civilization development because children like this could not work long hours hunting/gathering or in the fields as they had done for millennia. They had to be supported through years of demanding studies.

Writing is necessary for record keeping, but can be used for much more. Writing was needed for record keeping and probably evolved out of efforts to do just that. Writing was important in conducting economic transactions. Written records on goods traded and debts owed were essential for the commerce involved as people moved from simple bartering to more complex transactions. Distilling language to a writing system helped to make language a mote powerful tool. Clear writing is essentially clear thinking. And developing the grammar needed for clear thought necessitated a written language. Writing also had a range of practical benefits. Writing allowed people to preserve their history. This could be done orally, but not with the same accuracy. The Egyptians, for example, documented their pharaohs’ reigns on stone walls and papyrus scrolls. These works provided coming generations with important information about their culture, traditions, and beliefs as well as vital knowledge about the Nile floods. Writing also expanded the communication over time and place. The Greeks thus were able to communicate with their various city sates as well as other people beyond their own peninsula. They thus could could document events and information and both offer and request assistance. We only know of one major civilization that did not have a written language--the Inca. But modern research has revealed that Inca quipus served much the same function as writing. Writing was invented in Mesopotamia. -systems appear to have been invented independently at least six times in human history: first in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) where cuneiform appeared (about 3400 BC) followed soon after in Egypt (about 3200 BC). Although a great quantity of Egyptian writing has survived, it baffled scholars for centuries. It may have remained undecipherable had translations not been discovered--the Rosetta Stone which Jean François Champollion used to crack the code. Writing also developed in the Indus Valley (about 2500 BC), but so little of it has been found that it remains undecipherable. Much later writing appeared in Shang China (about 1250 BC). And finally we see writing in Mesoamerica (about 800 BC). Mesoamerican writing proved very difficult to decipher, in part because the Spanish friars destroyed so much of the writing. These systems varied significantly in type and other features. Mesopotamia created the most advance system, beginning with pictorial signs that gradually evolved into a complex system of characters representing phonetic sounds of the Sumerian language. But it would be the Egyptian hieroglyphics that would provided the basis of our modern alphabet. Egyptian picture symbols being used in Canaan, evolved into phonetic symbols. Here the Phoneticians played a major in this process and spreading it throughout the Mediterranean world. Although these dates suggest that writing could have spread out from one central point of origin, there is little evidence of any links between these systems, with each possessing unique characteristics and qualities.


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Created: 10:37 PM 10/17/2023
Spell checked: 10:37 PM 10/17/2023
Last updated: 10:37 PM 10/17/2023