Syllabaries Sign for each syllable Linear B, Mycenaean Greece
Who invented writing on own? Sumerians before 3000BCE Mexican Indians before 600BCE Egyptian writing 3000BCE Chinese writing by 1300BCE Most important single step was Sumerians’ introduction of phonetic representation-it allowed items that were difficult to draw, the same sound as things easy to draw!
Rebus Principle The Rebus principle is applied when written symbols are borrowed to represent new words with the same sounds regardless of what these symbols originally mean. Sumerian writing mixed 3 types of signs: logograms, phonetic signs, determinatives (resolved ambiguities due to rebus principle)
Oldest Mesoamerican writings Zapotec, undeciphered—predates Mayan writing Mayan writing is best understood Used both logograms and phonetic signs
Why didn’t others write? Had to be useful A society had to be able to support it by having scribes Other societies will eventually fulfill these prerequisites and write—but writing spreads rapidly which diminished opportunities for independent writing to occur.
How did it spread?-Option 1: Blueprint copying-copy or modify available blueprint-Roman alphabet -all alphabets come from 1 Semitic alphabet in modern Syria to Sinai Peninsula
How did it spread? Option 2: Idea diffusion-get the basic idea, reinvent the details Cherokee Nation’s alphabet, developed in 1830 by Sequoyah. The writing of “the white men” was observed but the mechanics of how to write were foreign, so he invented his own language.
Impact of Writing Established class distinctions: those who could write and those who couldn’t. Source of power Writing was used as propaganda by those in power Those who could write wanted to keep it that way-literacy was NOT encouraged Many historians b/l this is why writing was introduced so late in human history Again, it wasn’t about which people were “smarter,” but how it could be useful to a society
Writing Still Undeciphered Key to deciphering began with Rosetta Stone and Jean Champollion Proto-Sinaitic script in Egypt dated 1500BCE Phaistos Disc in Crete, 1700BCE (possibly world’s 1 st printed document)
Undeciphered Scripts Indus Valley script-most important Linear A from Crete (older than Linear B-script of King Minos) Etruscan script of Italy Zapotec script of Mexico-oldest writing in Americas Meroitic script of Kush Rongorongo script of Easter Island-most unique in that start at bottom left-hand corner, read to right-turn tablet 180 degrees and turn again!
What did ancient writing say? Political leaders used it for propaganda Urge for immortality-funerary inscriptions Predicting the future Most of it mundane-identity cards, accountancy: production levels, delivery dates, payments, debts
Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it be great if ancient Indus Valley script could be deciphered? We know it ceased to exist in 2 nd millenium BCE but not 100% sure why. It covered a quarter of the size of Europe and we know so little! 3700 objects have been found with ancient Indian writing, 60% small seals 3 possibilities: related to Sanskrit, Dravidian languages (like Tamil) or completely isolated
In the end… What caused writing to develop? Who wanted to write? What was the impact of writing on the ancient world? How did it spread? How did writing change civilization?