Developement of ancient systems of writing in Iraq and Egypt

Essay by Voodoo ChildCollege, UndergraduateA, December 1996

download word file, 6 pages 3.0

Ancient systems of writing in the Middle East arose when

people needed a method for remembering important information. In

both Ancient Iraq and Ancient Egypt each of the stages of writing,

from pictograms to ideograms to phonetograms, evolved as a response

to the need to express more complex ideas. Satisfaction of this

need gave us the two most famous forms of ancient writing,

cuneiform from ancient Iraq, and hieroglyphics from ancient Egypt.

Both of these forms of writing evolved and their use spread to

other peoples even after the originators of the scripts had passed


Some of the oldest writing found in the Middle East dates from

8000 to 3000 B.C. This corresponds to the approximate time period

that the people of the region went from living a nomadic life to

settlement in villages and trading among themselves. When trading

large or varying types of commodities you need a method for

recording. To meet this need developed a token system for the

recording of financial data. These tokens were of varying shapes

for various things, two to three centimetres in size, and used for

enumeration and keeping track of goods and labour.

These tokens eventually had to be stored so they wouldn't be

misplaced or lost. To secure them, they were placed in opaque clay

envelopes. To indicate what was inside the envelope markings were

made on it, eventually someone realized that all you had to do was

mark on the clay what was in the envelope and you discard the

tokens altogether. With this major development we get the first

writing on clay tablets.

In Ancient Mesopotamia the most readily available material for

writing on was clay. When writing on clay first arose, the scribe

would try to make an artistic representation of what he was

referring to.