Copyright © 1997,
Jay Ligda. All rights
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Humans in the Universe
A History of Early Writing
Cave painting was the first sign of early writing. Dating back to prehistoric times, cave painting is a form of nonverbal visual information. When the paintings were painted, it is possible to conceive that they were acted out and accompanied with sound, thus making full use of all the channels of communication. The first sign writing appeared in Sumeria between 4,000 and 3,500 B.C. (Grun 1976). It consisted of about 2,000 pictorial signs. Over the next thousand years, this evolved into cuneiform writing. Cuneiform writing is wedge shaped character writing. The first alphabets appeared in Egypt and Greece between 2,000 and 1,000 B.C. (Grun, 1976).
At this point we can take notice that early writing has evolved primarily out of hierarchical societies (Egypt, Sumeria, and Greece). A whole study could possibly be done on the relation between writing and the rise of hierarchies. Large civilizations would require rules to live by. Early writing was a laborious task, and would be limited to the elite (Wells, 1931). These rules would then be passed down from the elite to the masses, thus setting the stage for a hierarchy. This also set a stage for a mind-body split.
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- Grun, B. (1975). The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
- Wells, O. (1931). The Outline of History. Revised ed. New York, NY: Garden City.