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A history of
writing
 Who invented the first systems

of writing?

 What did they look like?
 How have they changed ove...
What came first?
Long, long before writing, humans were talking to
each other and for thousands of years, ideas and
inform...
Some early cave art
LEFT: A cave
engraving of an
antelope from
Algeria.

RIGHT: Cave painting from
France, possibly as old...
How many sheep..?
Writing as inventory
The earliest writing seems to have been to keep a
record of property - how many ani...
Clay trading tokens

Later, these tokens became smaller, more like
today’s coins, and the had a symbol on them to
show whi...
1. Earliest writing – In
Sumer
Historians agree that one
of the first groups of
people to start real writing
– and not sim...
The Sumerians & Writing
The Sumerians were the first people to
inhabit the area of Iraq, over 6,000
years ago.
They made g...
Sumerian writing Pictographic
Sumerian
writing began
about 5000
years ago as
pictures –
pictographs –
that
represented
wha...
Cuneiform (kyu-ney-uhform)
Eventually, the pictographs were simplified as
straight lines made using a wedge-shaped stick
c...
Look at the tip of the stylus
Cuneiform example
What do
you think it
says?
Cuneiform writing
spread across the
ancient Middle
East. The straight
wedges ...
2. Earliest writing - Egypt
At around the same time as the Egyptians also
developed their own system of writing.
Hieroglyp...
Hieroglyphics
Many hieroglyphics are also
pictograms, often drawn
sideways.
The word ‘hiero’ means ‘sacred’
and ‘glyph’ me...
Some hieroglyphics
represented a complete
word but many others
stood for syllables.
They had even more
symbols than the
Su...
Hieroglyphics
Writing was timeconsuming and, in
both Egypt and
Mesopotamia, it was
an activity reserved
for professional
p...
No vowels?!
According to experts, the Egyptians didn’t include
vowels when they wrote. This makes it very
difficult for us...
Pictogram Problems
Also, what problems might you have
if your writing system was all made
from pictures?
Can you ‘draw’ ev...
Rebus to the rescue!
To solve the problems of writing all words through pictures,
sometimes hieroglyphics were used to rep...
Did you guess it
correctly?
‘eye’ + ‘deer’ makes…. ‘idea’!
↵ Here are
some more.
Can you think
of your own?
Phoenician alphabet
• The next big change in writing came nearly two
thousand years later, around 3,000 years ago.

• At t...
Phoenician Alphabet 2
Unlike in hieroglyphics and Cuneiform, the Phoenicians
realized that there would be far, far fewer s...
Other ancient writing
systems
CHINA: The oldest traces of Chinese
scripts date from the Shang dynasty
(3,500 years ago). I...
Today.. Pictures still
important
Pictures for signs are still used to communicate
today:
Modern-day Pictograms
Writing – still developing
What are ‘emoticons’?
Why were they created?
Now your turn!
In pairs, read the text ‘A history of writing’ and see if you
can answer the following questions in your Un...
The history of writing
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The history of writing

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A brief overview of the history of writing - who invented the first writing system, where and for what purpose. From Mesapotamia tax records to modern-day emoticons and txt spk : )

Published in: Education, Technology

The history of writing

  1. 1. A history of writing  Who invented the first systems of writing?  What did they look like?  How have they changed over time?
  2. 2. What came first? Long, long before writing, humans were talking to each other and for thousands of years, ideas and information were passed down through the spoken word and story-telling. Simple drawings of animals have been found carved or painted onto cave walls that are over 30,000 years old! But the real purpose of these drawings simply isn’t known. It was much later that real systems of writing were created. Writing seems to have been invented in different parts of the world at more or less the same time.
  3. 3. Some early cave art LEFT: A cave engraving of an antelope from Algeria. RIGHT: Cave painting from France, possibly as old as 40,000 years.
  4. 4. How many sheep..? Writing as inventory The earliest writing seems to have been to keep a record of property - how many animals you had, how much land or how many measures of grain your neighbours owed you. ‘Counting tokens’ made of clay were used for this purpose to trade around 6,000 years ago. For example, a token with a shape of a coin and with a cross carved on it indicated a sheep; a coneshaped token meant a measure of corn, an eggshaped indicated a flask of oil, etc. For 20 sheep, people needed to use 20 sheep tokens.
  5. 5. Clay trading tokens Later, these tokens became smaller, more like today’s coins, and the had a symbol on them to show which animal or item they represented. Number systems developed so that a single coin could represent 10 or 20 of that object.
  6. 6. 1. Earliest writing – In Sumer Historians agree that one of the first groups of people to start real writing – and not simply cave pictures – were the Sumerians. Sumer was an ancient civilization based in modern-day Iraq and part of the area once known as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia means ‘between rivers’. Can you see the two rivers on the
  7. 7. The Sumerians & Writing The Sumerians were the first people to inhabit the area of Iraq, over 6,000 years ago. They made great progress with writing:  They kept records of taxes  They wrote down laws  They also worked out a calendar. They divided the day into 24 hours and an hour into 60 minutes.
  8. 8. Sumerian writing Pictographic Sumerian writing began about 5000 years ago as pictures – pictographs – that represented what they were. The pictures were carved into clay tablets then baked in an oven. What do you
  9. 9. Cuneiform (kyu-ney-uhform) Eventually, the pictographs were simplified as straight lines made using a wedge-shaped stick called a stylus. This early writing is called Cuneiform. The word comes from the Latin word for ‘wedge’.
  10. 10. Look at the tip of the stylus
  11. 11. Cuneiform example What do you think it says? Cuneiform writing spread across the ancient Middle East. The straight wedges were easier to make than curved lines. How do you think the circular holes
  12. 12. 2. Earliest writing - Egypt At around the same time as the Egyptians also developed their own system of writing. Hieroglyphics. The Egyptians didn’t write on clay tablets but used papyrus (an ancient paper made from the papyrus grass plant). Papyrus paper rolled into scrolls.
  13. 13. Hieroglyphics Many hieroglyphics are also pictograms, often drawn sideways. The word ‘hiero’ means ‘sacred’ and ‘glyph’ means ‘carved’ or ‘engraved’. For the Egyptians, writing was something sacred and divine. The oldest hieroglyphics are thought to be about 6,000 years old.
  14. 14. Some hieroglyphics represented a complete word but many others stood for syllables. They had even more symbols than the Sumerians did, as many as 5,000! The Egyptians used their hieroglyphics for thousands of years.
  15. 15. Hieroglyphics Writing was timeconsuming and, in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was an activity reserved for professional people called scribes. They were highly trained, important people.
  16. 16. No vowels?! According to experts, the Egyptians didn’t include vowels when they wrote. This makes it very difficult for us today to decipher how to pronounce many words. Can you imagine our writing without any vowels? t wld b vry dffclt t rd!
  17. 17. Pictogram Problems Also, what problems might you have if your writing system was all made from pictures? Can you ‘draw’ every word as a picture easily? Which words can you think of that might be difficult to draw as a picture?
  18. 18. Rebus to the rescue! To solve the problems of writing all words through pictures, sometimes hieroglyphics were used to represent a sound rather than represent the object drawn. This is known as the rebus principle. It meant complex words could be written using hieroglyphics. A rebus is a message spelt out in pictures using the pronunciation of each picture . For example, what do these two pictures mean together? + =?
  19. 19. Did you guess it correctly? ‘eye’ + ‘deer’ makes…. ‘idea’! ↵ Here are some more. Can you think of your own?
  20. 20. Phoenician alphabet • The next big change in writing came nearly two thousand years later, around 3,000 years ago. • At that time people called the Phoenicians lived on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where Israel is today. • The Phoenicians sailed all over the Mediterranean buying and selling things. They needed an easy way to keep records of what they bought and sold so they invented their own writing system.
  21. 21. Phoenician Alphabet 2 Unlike in hieroglyphics and Cuneiform, the Phoenicians realized that there would be far, far fewer symbols in their writing if they didn’t have a symbol for each syllable but instead used shorter sounds. So instead of having one symbol for "al" they one for "a" and one for "l". The Phoenician alphabet had just 22 letters -- even fewer than ours. Because the Phoenicians were such great travellers and their alphabet was so easy to use, many other peoples learned to use it too. The Greeks developed their alphabet based on the Phoenicians', and the Romans based theirs on the Greeks'.
  22. 22. Other ancient writing systems CHINA: The oldest traces of Chinese scripts date from the Shang dynasty (3,500 years ago). It was made of pictograms and mainly for religious purposes. MEXICO: Writing appeared around 2,700 years ago. It seems that the Mayas derived their writing from an older writing, used by other peoples. The Maya's writing was syllabic and was used to describe the most important events in the most
  23. 23. Today.. Pictures still important Pictures for signs are still used to communicate today:
  24. 24. Modern-day Pictograms
  25. 25. Writing – still developing
  26. 26. What are ‘emoticons’? Why were they created?
  27. 27. Now your turn! In pairs, read the text ‘A history of writing’ and see if you can answer the following questions in your Unit notebooks: 1. Why was writing first invented? 2a. In which two places in the world did writing systems develop? 2b. What were these two writing systems like? 3. Who were the Phoenicians and how was their writing system different? 4. Which two alphabets were created after the Phoenician alphabet?

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