The History of Writing

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The History of Writing

As long as 25,000- 30,000 years BC, humans were painting picture on cave walls. The advent of a writing system, however, seems to coincide with the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to more permanent societies when it became necessary to count ones property. Around 4100-3800 was when we first saw that symbols were used for counting. These were impressed or inscribed in clay. This was when a language started to develop. One of the earliest examples was found in the excavations of Uruk in Mesopotamia. The pictures began to represent what they meant. These were called Pictographs.

Here are some examples:

(You will have to see the attatched file)

They eventually became more stylized and detailed.


Instead of using words and letters like we use today, the Egyptians used pictures to describe words. The Egyptians called this style of writing hieroglyphics. They used red brushes or reed pens to write on papyrus scrolls.

Hieroglyphics were line drawings of animals, plants and mountains. Two-thirds of the hieroglyphics have been worked out and some of the things they have written have included short notes, numbers, lists of kings' names and names of institutions. An example of hieroglyphics is:

(You will have to see the attatched file)

The some of the hieroglyphics consonants are:

(See attatched file)

The Alphabet

In the beginning writing was pictorial. It began with ideograms, which developed into phonograms the first attempts to convey ideas in written form were made by the Sumerians about 3000 BC. Small pictures were drawn on wet clay which was then baked. These pictures eventually became conventionalised wedge-shaped symbols, known as cuneiform. Cuneiform had reached Egypt by 2100 BC and here it developed into a complex system which consisted of hundreds of hieroglyphic symbols inscribed on clay, papyrus, granite and...