The Origin and Development of Writing in Ancient Civilisations
The earliest periods of human being living in cultural-like society were recorded to have started since before the Mesopotamian age. The pre-historic era was divided into several phase started with Palaeolithic Age, Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Age and Bronze Age. The next following ancient civilization era comprises Mesopotamian Civilization, Egyptian Civilization, Indian Civilization and Chinese Civilization. During these civilizations, human started to do innovations in various fields, and one of them is the writing system or literature.
The Mesopotamian age which was started from 6000 BC had brought together with its development in the writing system- the cuneiform. The cuneiform script includes ideograms, syllograms, phonetic complements and determinatives. The cuneiform script was widely spread even to northern Syria. The earliest writing system found in Mesopotamia was not less than three different languages and may be came in through immigrations. They were Sumerian and Semitic language Akkadian and others. During the Akkadian empire, Akkadian became the dominant language while Sumerian was still being used in administrative matters. The famous literature work made during this empire, the Epic of Gilgamesh was written in Akkadian. When the Sumerian renaissance evolved, the Sumerian was back in used in administration, and Akkadian remained in popularity. Later, the Aramaic became in used replacing Akkadian. The Hittites adopted the Akkadian cuneiform to write their language.
The starting point of Egyptian early dynastic period is 3150 BC, divided into first and second dynasties of Egypt. The Egyptians developed hieroglyphic script which combined pictograms, ideograms and phonograms. It was generally used in arts, carved on large stones and painted on walls. Later, it developed into hieratic, a cursive form of hieroglyph. It was used in paintings, manuscripts, administrative and archival notations, restricted to be used only by members of priest-hood. Hieroglyph and hieratic are both virtually identical. In seventh century BC, the later hieratic script evolved into demotic script. Demotic script is highly cursive script. The hieratic only remained for religious writing and demotic was adapted to be everyday use. In 12th century BC, the Luwian Hittites develop hieroglyph script.
On 3300-1300 Indus civilization flourished in the northwestern region of India. The language used by the Indus people was not yet known. Some scholars tried to conclude the language was Aryan or Dravidian. This little progress of result due to the very short and brief texts and the lack of bilingual text were found. The average numbers of symbols found on the seals are four to five and the longest are 26. The symbols also vary from seal to seal which make the interpretations remained ambiguous until now.
The Chinese writing system in sinitic form appeared during Shang and Zhou dynasties around 1000-1500 BC. The earliest form of writing is called oracle bone script, recognized by interpreting the patterns of the bones’ cracks. The first writing was not symbolically written down, but rather the pictograms were carved on jades or pottery to represent the ownership. The type of Chinese writing is logographic comprises signs and characters that represent words and morphemes. The related writing systems are the Japanese and Korean, which sharing many of the same characters and the phonetic scripts. The Chinese writing is still being used until now in its modern simplified form.
The modern European alphabets are actually the development of earlier alphabets invented and modified by Greeks. Between 2000-1001 BC, the Mycenaean Greeks adopted Linear B script but this script did not suit well to write Greek. During the late ninth century BC, the Greeks adopted vowels for alphabet in Phoenician script to make it suit with the Greek. There were many kinds of Greek alphabets to suit its local dialect. The Euboean kind was first arrived Italic peninsula and been adopted by Etruscan and Latin. Later, the Ionian kind was adapted to all Greek-speaking states. The writing system is also known as C & V alphabetic and it came from proto-sinaitic family.
The Mesoamerican civilization started around 900 BC until 1697 CE. The writing system of this civilization developed from ‘picture-writing’ like to a more complex logophonetic type throughout the civilizations. They used hieroglyphic writing system same as the Egyptian’s hieroglyph as the symbols were seen so ‘picture-like’. The human body parts, especially legs and hands were drawn to denote actions or verbs. The writing system components of Mesoamerican civilization have started with the number system and the calendar long before the complex writing developed. The writing system of Mesoamerica ended during the invasion of Spanish. They forbade the use of any indigenous writing system and destroyed most books and manuscripts written in the Mesoamerican writing system. So, the natives used Latin to write their languages. But in 1990’s the natives can use and write again their own language and they fully contribute to analyze it.
In conclusion, the ancient societies held writing system as an important role in their everyday lives. The writings were used for administrations, transactions, manuscripts or even for religious logs. And there were also modifications of writings were made due to adjust the writings with their language. For the question of which civilization invented writing, writing was first invented independently in at least Mesopotamia, Ancient China and Mesoamerica. The cuneiform script could be considered as the first invented scripts as it was widely used in the other same-aged and later languages such as Sumerian, Hittites and Old Persian. But in recent discoveries, the writing system was assumed to be invented in Egypt and Indus, taken from Mesopotamia.
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