Jump to content




Welcome to Unexplained Mysteries! Please sign in or create an account to start posting and to access a host of extra features.


- - - - -

Origin of Writing

geometrical astronomical early writing paleolithic incised lines

  • Please log in to reply
91 replies to this topic

#31    Considered_Ignorance

Considered_Ignorance

    Alien Embryo

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Joined:02 Nov 2013

Posted 16 November 2013 - 02:05 AM

seems pretty straightforward. Writing begins as marks made for permanence (laws, commercial records) or demonstration (pictures of animals, star positions), and through the 'reading' out aloud of the information that the marks hold, writing develops into markers for the sounds of words and ideas.


The earliest writing then relies on your definition of 'writing', but is probably the lists mentioned, in clay or rope markings.

What may be even more interesting though, is how writing influences and is influenced by civilisation. As noted, the commencing of commerce seems to instigate mark making, but what effect would the decline of commerce/religion/governance have on a cultures use of mark making?

sorry for rambling, just thinking out loud really.




are there ancient analogies to the christian attempt to monopolise writing in the dark ages? And what about similar renaissance and enlightenment periods of ancient cultures? In our earliest histories of writing, has there been periods where a type of writing has almost dissapeared? Do periods of decline in the use of a writing correlate with the  massive transformations in that writing and a resurgence in ( or repurposing of) usage or transformation in the technology employed to record it?

Edited by Considered_Ignorance, 16 November 2013 - 02:13 AM.


#32    Kahn

Kahn

    Extraterrestrial Entity

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 467 posts
  • Joined:29 Apr 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Abingdon, MD

  • Ignorance is no substitute for intelligence.

Posted 16 November 2013 - 02:28 AM

I would differ slightly from your assessment CI.  If you think about it, trade requires writing, so it is not surprising that the oldest forms of writing we have found to date are mundane lists of trade items.  After all, you got to have some way of figuring out if the merchant upstream is stiffing you.


#33    Considered_Ignorance

Considered_Ignorance

    Alien Embryo

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 8 posts
  • Joined:02 Nov 2013

Posted 16 November 2013 - 03:03 AM

Reading the article linked to about the 'geometric writing' again, I don't think this counts as writing really. That people made marks as a tally or map, then progressed to using it as a written language makes sense, but the geometrical writing of the OP seems wrong for this.

because it isn't the sort of mark making that would get 'read' out loud, is it? For the marks on those bones to represent the exacting angles claimed, it would need to be used in one location only, and as an indicator of actual physical positions rather than any abstract concepts.

A mark of 1, 2 or 27, and a mark or means to link that number to items of commerce is more abstract, and can rely on the marks made independently of the medium or surroundings. Such a record could be transferable, and could be read and understood by people other than its creator. Marking these angles on bone isn't the same thing, and hence the evolution of that system into othrr forms of communication seems unlikely.

Not sure if im making any sense here, basically in my first ramble I said that marks are and do become written language, but now I'm saying I dont think these particular marks count.


#34    Kahn

Kahn

    Extraterrestrial Entity

  • Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 467 posts
  • Joined:29 Apr 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Abingdon, MD

  • Ignorance is no substitute for intelligence.

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:30 AM

I would diverge in that you seem to be forgetting that you have to apply numbers to items; i.e. 43 skins, 20 amphorae of wine, 12 monkeys, etc.


#35    anubisptah

anubisptah

    Alien Embryo

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 10 posts
  • Joined:02 Nov 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:California

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:33 AM

View PostConsidered_Ignorance, on 16 November 2013 - 02:05 AM, said:

seems pretty straightforward. Writing begins as marks made for permanence (laws, commercial records) or demonstration (pictures of animals, star positions), and through the 'reading' out aloud of the information that the marks hold, writing develops into markers for the sounds of words and ideas.


The earliest writing then relies on your definition of 'writing', but is probably the lists mentioned, in clay or rope markings.

What may be even more interesting though, is how writing influences and is influenced by civilisation. As noted, the commencing of commerce seems to instigate mark making, but what effect would the decline of commerce/religion/governance have on a cultures use of mark making?

sorry for rambling, just thinking out loud really.




are there ancient analogies to the christian attempt to monopolise writing in the dark ages? And what about similar renaissance and enlightenment periods of ancient cultures? In our earliest histories of writing, has there been periods where a type of writing has almost dissapeared? Do periods of decline in the use of a writing correlate with the  massive transformations in that writing and a resurgence in ( or repurposing of) usage or transformation in the technology employed to record it?
  

I could see the most definable purpose being for law for sure.

The Seeker

#36    Frank Merton

Frank Merton

    Blue fish

  • Member
  • 17,137 posts
  • Joined:22 Jan 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:45 AM

View PostEnigmaticLines, on 15 November 2013 - 03:45 PM, said:

Frank....

Do you now of any petroglyphs showing linear grid-like patterns in Vietnam?
Thanks for the question but I know of no early stuff in Vietnam at all (by "early" I mean prior to say 1000 BCE).


#37    Frank Merton

Frank Merton

    Blue fish

  • Member
  • 17,137 posts
  • Joined:22 Jan 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:48 AM

View PostKahn, on 16 November 2013 - 02:28 AM, said:

I would differ slightly from your assessment CI.  If you think about it, trade requires writing, so it is not surprising that the oldest forms of writing we have found to date are mundane lists of trade items.  After all, you got to have some way of figuring out if the merchant upstream is stiffing you.
I dunno; simple trade can be bartered and caveat emptor.  I figure writing started when tax collectors had to give receipts to taxpayers and similar proofs to the king.  Maybe just ordinary debts needed proofs.


#38    jaylemurph

jaylemurph

    "If we would know, then we would be more wisdomed."

  • Member
  • 9,554 posts
  • Joined:02 Nov 2006
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Seattle, WA

  • "You can lead a whore to culture, but you can't make him think." Dorothy Parker

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:53 AM

View Postanubisptah, on 16 November 2013 - 04:33 AM, said:

I could see the most definable purpose being for law for sure.

The "law" is an awfully abstract concept to apply to the far more concrete medium of writing. Think about the idea (as above) of 12 amphorae of wine -- discrete, concrete, solid objects -- as opposed to "thou shalt honor thy mother and father". It makes far more sense to be that writing would first be applied as concretely as possible.

--Jaylemurph

"... amongst the most obstinate of our opinions may be classed those which derive from discussions in which we affect to search for the truth, while in reality we are only fortifying prejudice."     -- James Fenimore Cooper, The Pathfinder

Posted Image

Deeply venial

#39    Frank Merton

Frank Merton

    Blue fish

  • Member
  • 17,137 posts
  • Joined:22 Jan 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted 16 November 2013 - 04:58 AM

View Postjaylemurph, on 16 November 2013 - 04:53 AM, said:

The "law" is an awfully abstract concept to apply to the far more concrete medium of writing. Think about the idea (as above) of 12 amphorae of wine -- discrete, concrete, solid objects -- as opposed to "thou shalt honor thy mother and father". It makes far more sense to be that writing would first be applied as concretely as possible.

--Jaylemurph
Yes of course.  As I understand it what has been translated of some of the earliest texts is always disappointing -- not about kings and gods but about tables and chairs.


#40    kmt_sesh

kmt_sesh

    Omnipotent Entity

  • 9,312 posts
  • Joined:08 Jul 2007
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Chicago, Illinois

Posted 16 November 2013 - 05:16 AM

As I recall the oldest agreed object of art is a piece of stone or bone from South Africa on which an ancient human scored hash marks. It's around 70,000 years old. Although not representational art of the sort that would appear 30,000 years later in the caves of southwest Europe, this object was obviously scarred for a reason. Perhaps it wasn't art to the person who did it, but it represents the oldest-known object "decorated" by Homo sapiens sapiens. In appearance it reminds me of some of the scored objects seen in the links in the OP. But is this writing?

Of course not. No properly trained linguist or historian would regard it as writing. It's simply hash marks. True writing is significantly more complicated than that. The OP links also show examples of early Chinese writing and examples of cuneiform, and while a glance will confirm that these examples are writing, hashmarks certainly are not.

Early historians were curious about the enigmatic geometric symbols and signs found in the Upper Paleolithic caves of southwest France and northeast Spain, such as Lascaux in the Dordogne department (see example here, at the feet of the Great Black Cow). Some of these early historians posited that the symbols were an ancient form of writing or perhaps a precursor to writing. Almost no one holds to that theory today. It's simply not plausible. Modern theories lean toward clan markers or perhaps mnemonic devices, but a form of writing it is not.

One must take care even in leaning toward precursors to writing. When you think about it, what exactly does that mean? Numerous American Indian peoples such as the Lakota made elaborate, painted, pictographic winter counts generation after generation and yet never developed a true writing system until modern times, when they assimilated to the same Latin alphabet I'm using right now. (The Cherokee alphabet stands out as different but it, too, is an adaptation of the Latin alphabet.) Pictographs are not a form of writing. Down through time scholars who labored to understand ancient writing systems fell prey to the same mistaken notion that this or that script could never be deciphered because they were purely ideographic—that is, signs not representing words or sounds but thoughts or ideas only. They thought this of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mycenaean Linear B, Mayan, and Aztec.

They were wrong every time. To date, no ancient writing system that has been deciphered has turned out to be ideographic. They are always logogrammatic and phonetic (as are Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mycenaean Linear B, Mayan, and Aztec). This is to say, with all ancient forms of writing there is a clear system in place, with context and syntax, to make one's language visible. And that's simply what all forms of writing are.

Hash marks cannot do this. At this point in time, the debate continues as to which came first, but all professional linguists and historians agree that the world's first true writing system was either Sumerian cuneiform or Egyptian hieroglyphs—both of which emerged right around 3,400 to 3,300 BCE. Nothing has surfaced in the world of archaeology or linguistics to make anyone seriously doubt this fact.

Posted Image
The evil overlord mummy moderator has spoken.

Visit My Blog!

#41    kmt_sesh

kmt_sesh

    Omnipotent Entity

  • 9,312 posts
  • Joined:08 Jul 2007
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Chicago, Illinois

Posted 16 November 2013 - 05:26 AM

I neglected to mention, but earlier there was talk about why writing actually was invented. That's an interesting part of the study of linguistics because there is no one reason. Cuneiform in Sumer first took form as a means to catalog transactions and inventories, so economics were a driving force. The earliest Egyptian hieroglyphs record gifts from elite estates and soon after names and titles of officials, so they seem to have emerged in the Abydos region of the Nile Valley for the purpose of showing possession, position, and status. Linear B from the Mycenaeans was much like the earliest cuneiform in recording exclusively economic matters; although cuneiform would go on to record elaborate narratives, myths, legends, kings lists, and the like, Linear B remained exclusively prosaic (much to the disappointment of historians of the time, who were hoping for narratives). But Mayan hieroglyphs seems to have been developed primarily for prestige purposes, in the recording of kings and calendars and historical events, so economy doesn't seem to have been the focus there.

In other words, there is no single answer as to why writing was invented. It depended on your society and what the elite of your society wanted to be recorded. What's most interesting is that the world's four oldest deciphered scripts—Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Chinese script, and Mayan hieroglyphs—all developed independently of one another.

Posted Image
The evil overlord mummy moderator has spoken.

Visit My Blog!

#42    kmt_sesh

kmt_sesh

    Omnipotent Entity

  • 9,312 posts
  • Joined:08 Jul 2007
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Chicago, Illinois

Posted 16 November 2013 - 06:10 AM

Gess, I'm sorry for popping in again, but I forgot something else. I promise this will be the last time tonight, or may jayle's Basset Masters chew me to bits and turn me into kmt-poo.

I forgot about the origin of Chinese. This script first appeared around 1800 BCE and was used for the purpose of oracles, so its origin is ritual or religious in nature. This makes it quite different from the beginnings of the world's other oldest scripts.

Obviously linguistics is of considerable interest to me, but I'm done hogging the discussion for the night.







Oh, wait...just kidding.

Posted Image
The evil overlord mummy moderator has spoken.

Visit My Blog!

#43    Frank Merton

Frank Merton

    Blue fish

  • Member
  • 17,137 posts
  • Joined:22 Jan 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted 16 November 2013 - 06:23 AM

I usually refrain from "liking" the posts of moderators as it might be misinterpreted, but in this case I'm learning so much I can't help myself.


#44    Leonardo

Leonardo

    Awake

  • Member
  • 18,410 posts
  • Joined:20 Oct 2006
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:UK

  • Hell is a guilty conscience

Posted 16 November 2013 - 11:18 AM

View Postanubisptah, on 15 November 2013 - 11:10 PM, said:

How is writing abstract? I believe when you read it messes with your left brain hemisphere. That is not abstract it is the opposite.

I'm not suggesting the fact of writing is itself 'abstract, anubisptah. Writing is patently a concrete form of communication.

What I am suggesting is that writing, true writing, developed to communicate abstract ideas and concepts. To be able to communicate concrete 'things' simple pictographs would be all that was required. Not only that, but the symbols representative of what is being communicated have to be abstractions - i.e. they don't graphically resemble what they represent.

Take this example:

One person uses a vertical mark to indicate each item - or thing - and follows this line of vertical marks by a pictorial representation of the 'thing' being counted. They place six vertical marks on a surface followed by a drawing or imprint resembling, or obviously representative of, a camel.

Compare this with someone who inscribes "Six camels" on the same surface.

Are both of these true writing?

Edited by Leonardo, 16 November 2013 - 11:19 AM.

In the book of life, the answers aren't in the back. - Charlie Brown

"It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them."  - J. Robert Oppenheimer; Scientific Director; The Manhattan Project

"talking bull**** is not a victimless crime" - Marina Hyde, author.

#45    Frank Merton

Frank Merton

    Blue fish

  • Member
  • 17,137 posts
  • Joined:22 Jan 2013
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Posted 16 November 2013 - 11:27 AM

Sorry to go off on a tangent, but reading about abstract writing brings to my mind one of writing's real miracles: if what we write gets preserved, we actually send our ideas and thoughts forward in time to the future.





0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users