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Pastor Rick Profile
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Re: Early writing


Not so, for in each of those cases we also have evidence that the same type of symbolism is also used in media that is portable... Though I do like your "meeting hall" analogy and think it is something worth exploring emoticon

Last edited by Pastor Rick, 10/20/2009, 10:29 pm


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10/20/2009, 10:28 pm Link to this post Send e-mail to   Send PM to Blog
 
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Re: Early writing


From a historical point of view, art and that includes cave art, is regarded as being very important in the history of a people and for that reason, cave drawings serve two purposes: on the one hand they are regarded as depicting the earliest attempts at art, and on the other the earliest attempts at recording history i.e. written communication.
Until fairly recently, sign language wasn't recognised as a "language" and deaf people were actively encouraged to 'fit in' to the 'normal' world by artificial ways of learning to 'speak'. Nowadays it is called a 'language' and deaf people are no longer deemed to be 'handicapped' but rather merely as using a different form of communication, in the same way as people who don't speak the language of the community are.
It's a matter of perception and what you personally want to believe, or achieve with your argument, when it comes to writing. If you want your agenda to be accepted, then you will (and by 'you' I mean the person expounding the theory) try to make your interpretation of what constitutes early 'writing' to be accepted.
Thus someone who wants cave drawings to be seen as the first form of 'writing' and 'written communication' will insist that it is.
Or someone who says that the Greeks and the form of letters used by us today which evolved from Greek letters, was the first writing and that the writing of the Near East was pictograms and not writing as such, would be belittling the enormous achievement that the first record-keeping on clay tablets really was.
If you ignore the hieroglyphs of early Egypt and the clay tablets of Sumer and Akkad, then you would have to say that the Greeks and Hebrews wrote the first letters.
It's a little like asking what the first recognisable language was. Was it the grunts of the first hominids? Or was it the clicks of the first people who left Africa? Or was it the composed sentences of the first people who formed settlements?
In the same way that the first shapes that a child draws are the first attempts at writing, the first sounds that a baby imitates are the first 'words' he speaks, not the first recognisable word a baby says. Babies communicate verbally with their different cries, long before they smile, and surely that communication should be noted as the first signs of language that eventually evolves into recognisable sounds.
I don't think that the movability or immovability of something written should be what is used to determine whether it is writing or not, but then I'm looking at it from the point of view of someone who has only recently come to realise just how great an achievement our evolution from ape-man to modern space traveller is. I think that every step we've taken forward has been a huge achievement for what is, basically, an animal.
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Re: Early writing


I've started reading this subject in my evolution book. I'll come back with something once I've read the whole chapter.
From my point of view as a historian, I would regard early drawing as an attempt at communication in the same way that I regard the drawings in Dickens as an indication of the style of caricature of the 19th century and see that as a way of communicating the facial expressions and style of dress for historical purposes.
But this is a subjective opinion, obviously not everyone will agree with me.
edited to fix filter glitch only

Last edited by Pastor Rick, 10/28/2009, 2:27 am
10/26/2009, 9:07 am Link to this post Send PM to Blog
 
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Re: Early writing


Very interesting Subject!

I would guess there was really no attempt at first to do any more then to draw a scene that had stuck in the memory in the ashes of their fire. Later they used more intricate drawings to show others in their group what they had seen.

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Re: Early writing


Here you go, the results of my research:

quote:

The invention of writing is the marking point between pre-history and history. It is therefore important to determine exactly what that point is; when the history of a people came to be recorded is the point at which pre-history ended, and it is for this reason that we have to determine whether 'writing' is the decipherable, portable documents that may or may not have survived until modern times, or whether fixed 'glyphs' and drawings are acceptable records of a people's experiences.
Of course the stories existed long before they were written down, but as anyone who has ever played the game 'broken telephone' knows, stories lose their truth as each relater adds his, or her, version of the story. This is how mythology evolved: one person passing the story on from his source to someone else who then becomes another person's source of the story and in this way, a devastating flood, survived by one family who were able to save themselves and members of their family and some of their livestock by building a raft, became the rescuer of all life on the planet after being instructed on boat-building by a deity.
Naturally, even though the drawings in caves may be the recordings of events in the lives of the people who occupied the caves, in the absence of no verifiable evidence, these remain merely cave drawings and we have to accept that 'history' began and 'pre-history' ended when people began to write, or draw, stories in a way that future researchers would be able to decipher them. Without the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which facilitated the reading of Egyptian hieroglyphs, even the writings of the Ancient Egyptians and their invaluable history would have had to have been assigned to the category of 'pre-history'.
Generally, it is accepted that true 'writing' began in the Fertile Crescent around 5,000 years ago. As with all human achievement, it evolved from scratches to keep records of simple trade transactions or a way to keep track of 'counting sheep' on clay tablets to our modern technology. It's evolution was a lot faster than the evolution of man from first walking on two legs to putting down permanent roots and building cities but that is only because once we figured out how valuable a tool it was, we would never revert to a life without it.
Once people began to acquire goods in the form of herds of sheep, goats, camels, tents and animal skins, i.e. developing the desire for more than merely the requirements for survival, they realised that in order to get what they wanted, they had to make some sort of trade with the person who had whatever it was they wanted.
Thus trade and commerce were developed and a need for recording commercial transactions required that trade become more complex which of course, required record-keeping, which in turn became more and more sophisticated.
The first form of writing was done on pieces of clay using a type of stylus and was simply a rough drawing of the goods traded and scratches for the number trader, thus a rough sketch of a sheep and 3 scratches would indicate that 3 sheep were traded. These pieces of clay were then baked and stored as a record. In the same way that it is impossible to write down long court proceedings in normal 'long-hand' which gave birth to the development of shorthand as a recording tool, these ancient traders developed symbols rather than use drawings (most of them were probably terrible drawings anyway – “is that a sheep, no Noah, that's no a sheep, it's legs are too long, it looks like a camel!”)
This first form of using a reed to scratch in clay and then baking the clay in an oven, is called “cuneiform” and was the basis of most writing until the development of more easily manipulated writing tools and rounded letters and forms the basis of Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian writing. Even as late as the Roman Empire, writing was still angular in its shape.
The oldest examples of writing were found in 1845 by an archeologist named Layard who excavated an area near modern-day Mosul in Iraq, where he uncovered the great palaces and library of the king of Assyria, Ashurbanipal, who died in 627 BCE.
Apart from the inscriptions eventually deciphered on these walls, he found stone tablets in the library and from these, once the language was uncoded, were the lists of Persian kings as related by the historian, Herodotus, in his Histories.
The most famous of the stories found in the library is the story of Gilgamesh, the fifth king of Sumer who ruled around 2650 BCE. One of the earliest recorded gods was invented by him, Enkidu and the story of the flood comes from the tablets found in the Babylonian library, and concerns a man named Uta-napishti who is told to build a boat for his family and a lot of animals. During the flood, only he and his family and animals are saved when they land on a mountain top. He releases a dove, then a swallow and then a raven which does not return, showing that they are near to land. This story may have been around for a long time and may have been the explanation given for the flooding of the Persian Gulf at the end of the last Ice Age. More importantly, due to the age of the story and its relationship to the flooding of the Persian Gulf, it is also the first written evidence of religious belief.
The Sumerians were also the first people for formalize their religious belief in gods by building temples, one for each god in their cities and with clay 'icons' bearing the image of the worshipped god. This practice of god icons continues to this day in the pictures and statues of saints and the crucifix.
In the writings, other philosophical thoughts of the Sumerians have come to light: a belief in a flat earth, a disk supported by water on all sides; that the sky was made of some metallic element punctured with holes through which the heavens could be seen at night. They believed that the stars were the heavenly lights of the gods and they therefore named the largest ones (the names we still use today) which they noticed behaved differently at different times in the yearly cycle, and with regularity giving them the ability to map a year and seven days to a week.
They formulated complicated mathematical theory and arithmetic based on the number sixty and thereby the sixty minute hour and twenty-four hour day. They had symbols for division and multiplication and were able to work out squares and square roots, and they are generally believed to have invented the wheel, not for transport but for making pottery, but it was soon employed to make the moving of goods on a board (carts).
They designed ships which allowed them to trade with distant groups of humans who were also beginning to settle into cities and made objects out of soft metals such as gold, silver and copper.
The evidence for this advanced technology was found in the tomb of a queen of Ur dated to about 2500 BCE.
The invention of writing facilitated the invention of codified laws (Hammurabi 1810-1750 BCE) one of which was “if a man put another man's eye out, his eye should be put out also.” And to make people aware of the laws, they were encouraged to learn to read and write and one of the stories handed down as essential reading, was Gilgamesh's story of the flood!
The great cities of Ur and Uruk eventually fell due to bad farming techniques and a stronger, more powerful king, that of Sargon the Great of Akkad (2270-2215 BCE), a baby cast off by his mother in a basket of rushes where he was found and reared as the son of a king. Sargon spread his domain towards the Mediterranean. By the time of his death the area from the Fertile Basin of the Tigris and Euphrates was fast becoming a desert due to the effects long wet period known as the Holocene Climatic Optimum which had given rise to the fertility but which came to an end in 3200 BCE. These people had used this fertility to establish their cities but as the area grew drier and was not able to sustain their crops, they had to move to the more moderate climates further away, to the east and the west, which is where our biblical characters come into the story.
Although the Egyptians were settled in North Africa around the same time as the cities of Ur and Uruk were being settled, their writing did not develop along the same lines as that of the Sumerians. They used pictograms which, probably through their trade with the Sumerians, they eventually shortened into a form of writing, which we know as hieroglyphs. India was being settled as well during the fourth millennium BCE as was China and the other great nations of the East. But it was the Sumerians who brought about complex and sophisticated writing, which the other civilizations took from them and changed to suit their own needs.
Writing brought about the ability for us to record our history and allowed knowledge to be passed without being lost, from one part of the world to another and from generation to generation, this makes writing the most important invention of the ancient world.
10/30/2009, 11:28 am Link to this post Send PM to Blog
 


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