All Subjects
      All Types

        Info

        Grades

        2-5

        Permitted Use

        Stream and Download


        5 Favorites
        167 Views

        The Evolution of Ancient Writing

        Writing emerged independently in relatively few places around the world. Early on, it was primarily a technology used to record inventories and agricultural accounts. The first evidence of human writing has been discovered in the Fertile Crescent of Sumer, and is at least 5,000 years old. Historians call this Sumerians writing cuneiform. It is an elaborate system of symbols made with a wedge-shaped stylus and pressed into wet clay. Over the centuries, this writing system was adopted and adapted across the Western world. The alphabets like Phoenician, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, and even the Roman alphabet we use for writing English all have their distant roots in this ancient Sumerian script.

        But the Sumerians weren’t the only people to develop a writing system on their own. Around 4,000 years ago, the people of China developed their own writing system independently of the Sumerian script. Over time this script developed into a complex system of symbols and characters. As with the Sumerians, the Chinese writing system was very influential and spread around Asia as different peoples adopted and adapted the writing system for their own use. 

        The only other place where historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists believe that writing developed independently is in the Americas. About 2,500 years ago the first writing system in the Americas emerged in what is now southern Mexico. This script used complex pictures, or pictograms, to represent words and ideas. And, as in the other two cases we’ve looked at, this writing system spread around Mesoamerica as other groups adopted and adapted it. Take a look at the different writing systems in the media gallery to learn more.

         

        Grotesques, Illustration from the Jewish Cervera Bible, 1299

        This Iberian Hebrew illuminated manuscript is one of the earliest Sephardic Bibles still in existence. It was produced in 1299 by Joseph Asarfati. Medium: vellum. Date: 1299. Animaux fantastiques; Provenance: Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional, Lisbon, Portugal / Giraudon.

        Permitted Use:

        Stream and Download

        Accessibility:


        Transcript:


        Download:

        Close

        Plaque of Darius I, 6th Century BC

        This ancient gold tablet from Persia dates from the 6th century and shows 10 lines in ancient Persian and 7 lines in Babylonian. Persian School, (6th century BC); Persian. Medium: gold. Date: 6th Century. 10 lines in ancient Persian, 7 in Babylonian and 8 in Elamite.

        Permitted Use:

        Stream and Download

        Accessibility:


        Transcript:


        Download:

        Close

        Inscription in the Kushana Language Written in the Greek Alphabet, 1st to 2nd Century

        This is a stone inscription carved in the ancient Kushana language of Afghanistan in the 1st-2nd century, and written in the Ancient Greek alphabet. Afghan School. Medium: stone. Date: 1st-2nd Century. Provenance: Surkh-Kotal, Afghanistan / Giraudon. Photographic Rights The Bridgeman Art Library.

        Permitted Use:

        Stream and Download

        Accessibility:


        Transcript:


        Download:

        Close

        Stela of Si'gabbor, Priest of the Moon God, with an Aramaic Inscription, from Neriab, near Aleppo , c. 650 BC

        This is a Syrian funerary carving from 650 BC of Stela of Si'gabbor, priest of the moon, with Aramaic inscription. The piece is from Neriab, near Aleppo. Syrian School. Medium: stone. Date: c. 650 BC. Stele funeraire de Si'gabbor, pretre du dieu Lune, avec inscription arameenne.

        Permitted Use:

        Stream and Download

        Accessibility:


        Transcript:


        Download:

        Close

        Iroquois Pictogram, 12th July 1666

        This is an image of a pen and ink Iroquois pictogram from 1666. This pictogram was drawn by the French Jewuit priest, Pierre Joseph Chaumonot (1611-93) and is now housed in the Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, in Paris, France / Giraudon. Photographic Rights The Bridgeman Art Library.

        Permitted Use:

        Stream and Download

        Accessibility:


        Transcript:


        Download:

        Close

        You must be logged in to use this feature

        Need an account?
        Register Now