Throughout history, human activity has largely determined the development of writing. Early pictographs and writing were developed in Mesopotamia. Later, the linear alphabet and the cuneiform script were developed. By the end of the fourteenth century, many of these changes were made possible by the invention of the printing press by evolutionary writers. In just 50 years, more books were produced than ever before.
The evolution of writing began with pictograms, first used in the 4th millennium BCE. In this early writing system, sexagesimal signs were used to represent numbers, while abstract symbols represented concepts. In the Near East, the development of writing systems began during the Bronze Age, roughly dated from 2500 to the 1st century BCE. Writing systems evolved from pictograms, abstract shapes, into more specific and detailed shapes, such as words.
While early pictographs were not yet able to express emotion, they were a valuable tool for expressing objects, quantities, and thoughts. The Egyptians eventually developed a sophisticated writing system called hieroglyphics despite these early pictographs. Despite never having developed a true alphabetic writing system, by 3100 B.C., they had developed a sophisticated language.
Development of the Linear Alphabet
The first evidence of writing dates back to the ancient Egyptians, writing in about 1850 BC. In China, writing dates back to around the same time the kings of the late Shang dynasty founded a capital at Anyang and began using animal bones for divination rituals. It was when the first examples of writing were found in the country. While the origins of the Egyptian alphabet are unknown, the development of the linear alphabet is generally regarded as the most important event in the history of writing.
Linear A and Linear B are two forms of the Greek alphabet derived from the Minoans. The Greeks borrowed the Linear A script directly from the Minoans. Despite the similarities between the two scripts, they cannot be used to understand language features or the meaning of most words. Luckily, two types of Linear A writing are attested by archaeological evidence. AB81-02 is a pre-Hellenic Greek script, and KU-RO is a lineal alphabet that was used in the 1st millennium.
Early forms of Writing in Mesopotamia
The earliest forms of writing were pictographs, which represented goods or tokens in a geometric pattern, traced with a stylus. These pictographs were never repeated, and the numerals they accompanied indicated the number of units recorded. An incised pictographic sign ‘jar’ represents thirty-three jars of oil. Other signs were used to record the official handling the transaction and the corresponding grain quantity.
As city-states grew, they developed organizational structures and methods of recording information. They also developed ways to communicate and preserve their knowledge. During this time, early Mesopotamian writing systems were based on pictograms and abstract shapes. The use of writing quickly replaced earlier methods. It also provided an avenue for writing to spread outside of Mesopotamia. And once writing began, it was used to communicate ideas and instructions to others.
Development of the Cuneiform Script
The Cuneiform script developed from a phonetic writing system to a form used to record literary, astronomical, and medical texts. The script was used to record the trade and distribution of goods and the names of the merchants, customers, and the official overseeing the process. It was later adapted to record up to fifteen different languages. The development of this script indicates the beginning of written language.
The cuneiform script helped save many ancient texts, from religious to prophetic texts. It also enabled the first oral transmission of a literary work, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was reconstructed from the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. Today, it is the world’s oldest known manuscript. The development of the cuneiform script has many benefits and greatly contributes to the study of ancient human culture.
Development of the Cuneiform Script in China
The cuneiform script was a language that developed in the ancient Near East. It functioned phonetically and semantically, indicating both an object and a concept. This language is thought to have evolved from Sumerian proto-photography. Enheduanna, who lived in the Sumerian city of Ur during the 2285-2250 BCE period, used cuneiform to write the famous hymns of Inanna, the goddess of love and fertility.
In 2340 BC, the Akkadian king Sargon conquered Sumer, the oldest civilization in the world. The Akkadians had been using the cuneiform script for centuries, and Sargon was the last in the line of Akkadian kings. His empire spanned the area between present-day Lebanon and ‘the nether sea.’ By the time Sargon’s reign was over, the cuneiform script had been used to write the languages of the ancient Near East and Egypt. As a result, at least 15 languages will use the characters from cuneiform in the future.
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