2 Similarities Across Civilizations Early writing in pictures, lines, and symbolsRepresent sounds or wordsMonopolized by scribesMostly used in governmentSometimes commoners had own writing systemsLanguages have been deciphered from civilizations with extensive trading contactsMesopotamia & EgyptBilingual texts availableSome languages still undecipheredIndus Valley, Olmec, Chavin, Minoan
3 Mesopotamian Cuneiform First written language3500BCEEmerged similar in time to Egyptian hieroglyphicsRepresentational at firstBull = picture of bullPictograph of barley = barleyInconvenient for writing other than nouns & increasingly abstractFunctioned both phonetically (sounds) and semantically (object or concept)Composed of wedgesAccomplishmentsFirst written lawEpic of Gilgamesh
4 Egyptian Hieroglyphics Unlike Mesopotamia, Egyptians didn’t simplify hieroglyphsUsed mainly by priestsHieraticUsed for conducting day-to-day businessPicture signs abbreviatedWritten in rows or columnsRead right to left or left to right, depending on what way humans or animals are facingFour categoriesAlphabetic – single soundSyllabic – combination of two or three consonatnsWord-signs – pictures of objectsDeterminative – picture of an object that helps the reader
5 Indus ValleyWriting samples are 2,000 inscribed seals in legible conditionsSeals – used to make impressions on malleable material like clayDifficult to decipherVery short, brief textsLanguage beneath seals is unknownLack of bilingual textsTheoriesLanguage unrelated to anything elseLanguage is “Aryan” (Indian-Iranian or Indo-European)Language belongs to Munda family like other SE Asian familiesDravidian (spoken in Southern India)
6 ShangExamples on oracle bones – priests interpreted cracks formed by holes & punched bones; write down history of dynastyAncestor of modern Chinese writing systemSymbols or characters for each wordNever became purely phonetic system like the Roman alphabetRequired learning to recognize & write several thousand charactersHighly specialized skill
7 Olmec & Chavin No common writing system Symbols & inscriptions on pillars and artwork indecipherable today
8 Minoan & Mycenaean Minoan writing system undeciphered Information from Mycenae written on clay tabletsLinear B – uses pictorial signs to represent syllablesEarly form of GreekPalace administrators kept records of animals, people, and objectsReveal little about political & legal system, social structure, gender relations, or religious beliefs
9 Questions for Consideration Why is a writing system a requirement for being a civilization?How does the ability to read and write impact social structure?How is history limited by written records?
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