Early writing in pictures, lines, and symbols Represent sounds or words Monopolized by scribes Mostly used in government Sometimes commoners had own writing systems Languages have been deciphered from civilizations with extensive trading contacts Mesopotamia & Egypt Bilingual texts available Some languages still undeciphered Indus Valley, Olmec, Chavin, Minoan
First written language 3500BCE Emerged similar in time to Egyptian hieroglyphics Representational at first Bull = picture of bull Pictograph of barley = barley Inconvenient for writing other than nouns & increasingly abstract Functioned both phonetically (sounds) and semantically (object or concept) Composed of wedges Accomplishments First written law Epic of Gilgamesh
Hieroglyphics Unlike Mesopotamia, Egyptians didn’t simplify hieroglyphs Used mainly by priests Hieratic Used for conducting day-to-day business Picture signs abbreviated Written in rows or columns Read right to left or left to right, depending on what way humans or animals are facing Four categories Alphabetic – single sound Syllabic – combination of two or three consonatns Word-signs – pictures of objects Determinative – picture of an object that helps the reader
Writing samples are 2,000 inscribed seals in legible conditions Seals – used to make impressions on malleable material like clay Difficult to decipher Very short, brief texts Language beneath seals is unknown Lack of bilingual texts Theories Language unrelated to anything else Language is “Aryan” (Indian-Iranian or Indo-European) Language belongs to Munda family like other SE Asian families Dravidian (spoken in Southern India)
Examples on oracle bones – priests interpreted cracks formed by holes & punched bones; write down history of dynasty Ancestor of modern Chinese writing system Symbols or characters for each word Never became purely phonetic system like the Roman alphabet Required learning to recognize & write several thousand characters Highly specialized skill
No common writing system Symbols & inscriptions on pillars and artwork indecipherable today
Minoan writing system undeciphered Information from Mycenae written on clay tablets Linear B – uses pictorial signs to represent syllables Early form of Greek Palace administrators kept records of animals, people, and objects Reveal little about political & legal system, social structure, gender relations, or religious beliefs
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?