From pictograph to pictograph


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WRIT 371 Critical Photo Essay

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From pictograph to pictograph

  1. 1. The History of WritingFrom Pictograph to Pictograph By Mandy Hansen
  2. 2. In the beginning, man utilized pictographs to depict the hunt on cave walls…
  3. 3. •Cave drawings and paintings in El Castillo cave in NorthernSpain have been dated to be at least 40,000 years old – datingto the time of the last Neanderthals and earliest Homo sapiens•Cave drawings contain the basic elements of writing – graphicmarks made with a tool for the purpose of communication –and are therefore man’s earliest writing•Cave paintings contain images important to the survival ofearly man – prey, predators, etc.•Although great effort has gone into the creation of theimages, they are simple and easily recognizable
  4. 4. The Sumerians began keeping written records on clay tablets; meanwhile 850 miles away the Egyptians created Papyrus.
  5. 5. •Sumerian writing developed for record keeping purposesaround 3200 B.C.E.•Initially consisting of simple pictographs for keepingtrack of merchandise like wheat, barley and beer, thelanguage developed complexity over time•Eventually the Cuneiform alphabet contained over 600characters, allowing more complex texts and stories to bewritten•Ultimately the written Sumerian language became toocomplicated to be efficient
  6. 6. •Shortly after the development of Sumerian writing, theEgyptians developed hieroglyphic writing•Hieros means sacred, glyph means engrave•The hieroglyphic language was formed from a combination ofalphabetic symbols and purely pictographic symbols•The Egyptian invention of papyrus around 3000 B.C.E. allowedfor the creation of the first portable records and texts
  7. 7. •The Phoenicians developed the first non-pictographic alphabetin which images represented sounds – a phonetic alphabet•The Greek alphabet, which added vowel sounds, forms thebasis of the modern Latin alphabet used in many languagesaround the world•With a mere 26 characters, the modern Latin alphabet hasallowed for endless variations in written language
  8. 8. Reading and writing became available to the masses with the invention of the Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press
  9. 9. •Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press with movable type,invented around 1440 C.E., for the first time made theduplication of written text easy and affordable•Prior to the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, hand-lettered texts could take years to complete•Other printing techniques with unmovable type were nearlyas labor intensive as hand-lettering•By the 1800’s, the ease of printing afforded by Gutenberg’spress had resulted in the creation nearly a million books
  10. 10. With the advent of modern computing,man returned to his pictographic roots
  11. 11. •With the development of graphic-based computing in theearly 1970’s came the creation of the first graphic computericons•The first graphic-based PC, the Xerox Star, included manyof the icons we still use today•As PC usage increased so did the creation of graphic icons•By the time the internet came in to being, the graphic iconwas part of our computing vernacular•The creation of a Favicon, or short cut icon, is consideredan integral element of branding for businesses that willhave a web presence•Although great effort has gone into the creation of theseimages, they are simple and easily recognizable•The pictographic icons of well branded companiesrepresent things that are important to the survival of themodern man – social media, shopping, etc.
  12. 12. Hmmm….so have we come full circle?
  13. 13. Man’s desire to communicate easily and rapidly was the basis of thecreation of writing, whether it be in the form of cave drawings or theevolution of the modern Latin alphabet. As we have moved into thetechnological age, that desire has not diminished – in fact, it wouldseem to me, that desire has become more pressing. While the creationof a web icon is a time consuming task, much like the creation of a cavepainting or a writing system, the end result is a an infinitelyduplicatable image – an image that can represent a commodity oremotion or an entire virtual network of people.As we move further down the path of communicating electronically bymeans of pictographs we risk complicating communication, just as theSumerians did , by creating too many pictographic images for them allto be easily understood. However, through thoughtful understandingof communication and writing systems we have built in an advantagefor continued understanding of newly generated web icons, throughyears of development we understand that an web icon next to acompany name represents that companies web presence, etc. As such,I don’t foresee any slowing of new web icon generation.
  14. 14. Works CitedThe British Museum Explore. The British Museum. n.d. Web. 15 June 2012.< >Epoch Times Sci. “Spanish Cave Art Confirmed as Europes Oldest.” YouTube. 14June 2012. Web. 15 June 2012.<>“History of Writing” History World. n.d. Web. 15 June 2012.<>“Know Your Icons Part 1 – A Brief History of Computer Icons.” Psdtuts+. n.d. Web.15 June 2012. <>Lo, Lawrence. Ancient Scripts. n.d. Web. 15 June 20, 2012.< >Norman, Jeremy. “From Cave Paintings to the Internet: Chronological and ThematicStudies on the History of Information and Media.” History of Information. n.d. Web.15 June 2012. <> “Table of the Phoenician Alphabet.” Phoenician International Research Center.n.d. Web. 19 June 2012. < >